Proposed residential rehabilitation facility fails to gain support

A local businessman’s proposal to build and operate a residential rehabilitation facility in a commercial area on Seymour’s west side has failed to gain support from neighbors and the city plan commission.

Craig Elmore, who owns Excel Tool Inc. in the Freeman Field Industrial Park, wants to provide housing in the 1300 block of West Tipton Street for newly released inmates and others in distress who have no place to go.

“People will be able to come and live at my facility instead of under a bridge,” he said.

He estimates he will be able to house about 30 people and teach them skills, including tool and die making, aviation, woodworking, music and automotive mechanics.

In February, he filed an application with the city’s planning and zoning department to vary from the property’s current commercial zoning.

Elmore bought the former Silgas building at 1277 W. Tipton St. and is in the process of buying 1300 W. Tipton St., he said.

The plan commission voted 10-0 last week with one member absent to deny Elmore’s land use variance request and forwarded the request to the city board of zoning appeals with an unfavorable recommendation.

That board is scheduled to meet May 26.

In making its decision, the plan commission considered two letters from nearby property owners who were not in favor of the facility being built near their businesses.

Kevin Beavers, who owns Culligan Water Conditioning at 1263 W. Tipton St., said he doesn’t think the area is suited for such a facility.

One of his biggest concerns with the project is drainage.

“In order to build in this location, he would have to fill in the floodplain, which would mean the floodwaters from Von Fange Ditch would have to back up on the neighboring properties,” he wrote in a letter to the city.

Don Luecke, owner of Luecke Audio Video Appliances at 1255 W. Tipton St., voiced similar concerns.

“This area of West Tipton Street has been increasingly experiencing stormwater flow issues,” he wrote in another letter. “Before any construction is initiated, we believe steps need to be taken to address this problem.”

Commissioner Dave Eggers agreed it wasn’t the ideal location for the facility because it’s in a floodplain.

Beavers also voiced concerns a rehab facility would cause property values in the area to decrease.

And because the property is near Kessler Park, Seymour High School and Kimberly Mobile Home Park, both Beavers and Luecke also brought up the issue of safety of children.

“When school is in session, many children walk past our office, and some cut through (that) property to get to their homes,” Beavers said.

“Clearly protecting the safety of children should also include preventing potentially bad situations,” Luecke said.

Elmore said residents in the facility would be supervised 24 hours a day, seven days a week and would be “contained” and held accountable for their actions.

“If they get released from jail in Jackson County and they don’t have any place to go, they’re going to break into places like Luecke’s. They’re going to burglarize those mobile homes,” Elmore said.

There are already two similar projects underway on the city’s east side. Business owner and developer Andy Royalty is working on construction of a homeless shelter and a work release center on Dupont Drive.