Brownstown BZA denies rezoning request from auto parts store


As much as Brownstown residents want to see more businesses come in, it can be tricky when they are built near a residential area.

Bobby Deitz of Bacon Farmer Workman Engineering & Testing Inc. of Murray, Kentucky, recently made a final pitch to town officials on the purchase of property at 521 W. Commerce St. to build a 7,150-square foot O’Reilly Auto Parts store.

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The 1.47-acre site, owned by Joe Peters, currently is for sale as commercial property under Paul Nay & Associates of Seymour.

The site, however, has been zoned R-10 residential since Brownstown established a zoning ordinance in 2016.

O’Reilly filed an application to have the property rezoned to highway business. The town’s plan commission gave that an unfavorable recommendation, and the board of zoning appeals had the final say during its meeting Monday night at Brownstown Town Hall.

After hearing from Deitz and seven residents, the BZA chose to leave the property zoned residential and deny the request from O’Reilly.

Toby Pauley, Wes Spray, Phil Owens and Sam Markel all voted against the rezoning, and Adam Sparks recused himself from the vote because of a conflict of interest with him being one of the adjoining property owners.

Conner Barnette, the town’s plan commissioner, read the names on 29 green cards, which were from certified letters sent to the adjoining property owners by the applicant.

Deitz said O’Reilly saw the property as a good fit for a retail store because it’s within 1,500 feet of the intersection of Main and Commerce streets, or U.S. 50.

“All of these commercial lots along South Main Street and Commerce Street, if you go and look, there’s residential behind every one of those on the back side — every one of them,” he said.

“This is a highway business corridor. There’s no way around having that border between residential and commercial,” he said. “You’ve got two main thoroughfares through your (town), and it’s your commercial corridor. On the back side of those, you’re going to have residential.”

O’Reilly’s plans called for lowering the nearly 5-foot-tall grassy bank along Commerce Street to make way for an entrance to the store. They also planned to ensure the parking lot lights would only shine on the property and that a fence and landscaping would be added as buffers from homes.

“They are going to take care of their property, keep it up, keep it mowed, keep landscaping taken care of,” Deitz said. “They want to be a good neighbor.”

Some residents expressed concern when Deitz said delivery trucks would be coming in and out of the property after 9 p.m., possibly resulting in headlights shining on nearby homes and added noise late at night.

That would affect Tom and Stacey Allman, who live across the street just east of the lot.

“I’m not opposed to new businesses coming in, but I don’t want to be sitting there shining lights in my front yard and my front window without having to put window tint up to block out all of these lights coming in and out,” Tom said. “They would have to build a wall up to keep all of the headlights out of there that late at night.”

He also said people often walk on Francis Street, and the schools’ track and cross-country teams run on it.

“It’s hard enough for them to cross 50, and then trying to dodge cars coming in and out of there,” Tom said. “It is one of the busiest streets here in town because it’s the only street that goes from the trailer court. The kids walk from the trailer court to the middle school, high school. We have a hard enough time with traffic there the way it is getting in and out off 50, let alone bringing in more traffic.”

Deitz said he estimated 80 vehicles would come in and out of the store’s parking lot each day, and the peak time would be around 4:30 p.m.

“For this to be retail, this is probably one of your lowest traffic generators that you could ask for as an auto parts store,” he said.

Jamie Temple also saw an issue with traffic near the proposed site.

“It’s very dangerous to pull in and out of there now the way it is, especially with that hill,” she said. “I can’t see it getting any better with more traffic coming in and out. That road on Francis Street right there pulling out is very narrow. It’s got a culvert there. People go into that all of the time.”

While Temple said she isn’t opposed to new businesses coming to Brownstown, she doesn’t think the lot is suited for commercial use.

“If you look at it and you think, ‘Man, that would be good residential,’ I do. I look at it and think, ‘I could see two houses going on those lots.’ I really could,” she said. “I don’t see it being commercial at all, and when I bought (her nearby house nine years ago), I didn’t intend for that lot to ever be commercial, as it doesn’t even fit. I love Brownstown, I want to see it grow, but I don’t think that’s an ideal location.”

Ronald Scott, who has lived two homes away from the lot for nearly 17 years, said he would be opposed to any commercial business being that close to him.

“It’s a quiet neighborhood,” he said. “I can just see the traffic trying to avoid 50 coming out of the parking lot on Francis Street, going down to the other end, cutting on Walnut Street to hit a stoplight. I’m not too thrilled about going out in my backyard and seeing an auto parts store while I’m trying to enjoy the evening.”

Tom Allman said another issue is if the store was put on the lot, he would lose some of the property he owns because the Indiana Department of Transportation would need space for turn lanes to access the store.

“I just bought three lots there, and I hate to see me lose property and also property on the other side of the highway because they are going to have to take property over there, too, to make turn lanes like they did down in front of Family Drug and everything else,” he said.

Don Grider, who lives just west of the site, said there are safety concerns in the area. For one, it’s not suited for semitrailers, as one recently hit an electric pole on Sharan Drive and knocked electricity out for more than six hours. Also, when traffic is backed up on Commerce Street, motorists often cut through Sharan Drive and Francis Street to get to the stoplight at Walnut Street.

Markel asked Deitz if O’Reilly had looked at a 3½-acre lot across the street that’s near several commercial properties, while Pauley pointed out the industrial park just south of town off of State Road 135.

Deitz said he couldn’t find any other property available along U.S. 50 until getting a mile away from the main stoplight, and O’Reilly typically likes to be on a commercial corridor.

“They are retail, and the bulk of your retail is going to be in there,” he said. “If there was a Walmart or a Target or something that generates traffic, they would go there. Ideally, they like to go next to other auto parts stores. Usually, you’ll see them all clumped there together. It’s a destination. They try to get them to build in one spot, and then (customers) can decide which store they are going to go to.”

After the BZA’s vote was announced, the nearly 15 residents attending the meeting left the town hall.

“No ill feelings toward you all,” Deitz said to the BZA. “I’ve been to a lot of these. You’re in a tough spot.”