Board votes against Maple Avenue subdivision


Residents of the historic West Second Street neighborhood in Seymour came together in force last week to stand against a 12-lot subdivision proposed to be built near their homes.

Developers Arnold and Clayton Wetzel of Wetzel Properties LLC are looking to build affordable housing in the 600 and 700 blocks of Maple Avenue, which runs behind homes and businesses that front West Second Street.

The properties are currently zoned C-2 (neighborhood commercial). On Thursday, the Seymour Plan Commission voted 8-3 to deny the Wetzels’ request to rezone the properties to R-1 (residential).

Those voting in favor of the proposal were John Reinhart, Bret Cunningham and Jeri Wells.

Commissioner and city engineer Bernie Hauersperger said he is concerned with the property being contaminated from past use by the former Jackson-Jennings Co-Op.

“I think this sounds like a problem and it needs to have some type of environmental study done if this is going to move forward,” he said.

The request now goes to the Seymour City Council and will have a first reading at Monday’s meeting. It has to pass two readings by the council before it can take effect.

Clayton Wetzel said the project is a way to address the significant housing shortage in Seymour. He also believes the subdivision will improve the surrounding area’s appearance and increase property values.

“It is our vision to rezone and develop Maplewood into an upscale single-family neighborhood,” he said.

He estimated the homes would sell in the $190,000 price range. The lots would be around 8,000 square feet in size, and the brick-fronted homes would be 1,300 to 1,600 square feet. Each home would have an attached two-vehicle garage.

“This price point will provide more affordable new construction options to the city and its residents as well as increase the surrounding property values,” he said.

Clayton said they could have fit up to 14 lots but didn’t want the development to feel like it was squeezed in.

The Wetzels have been working to develop the property for the past three years.

In 2017, they conducted a community meeting at Harmony Park on West Second Street to share their vision with the surrounding neighborhood.

“As we know, change can be difficult, and we wanted to be upfront with the neighbors about the project we are proposing,” he said.

At that time, the Wetzels planned to change the zoning to R-3 to build multifamily housing.

“We decided that was not in the best interest of the community to move forward with that request,” he said. “We feel R-1 is the best and highest use of the property that will also have the greatest positive overall impact for the city and the neighborhood.”

Roger Wessel, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway, agreed there is a housing shortage in Seymour and many surrounding communities.

What the Wetzels are proposing adds suitable housing in an affordable price range for brand-new three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes, Wessel said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “It’s a great tax basis for the community. It’s going to increase property values around it.”

The biggest concern three years ago from neighbors was drainage issues. Those are still concerns today.

“We have carefully monitored this over the past three years and are confident that this will not be a problem in the future,” Clayton said.

Before they purchased the property, a water drainage system was installed by Premier Companies along the backside of Maple Avenue for construction of that business’ new office building.

“Water was taken into careful consideration during this entire process,” Clayton said. “Water is to flow properly to the back of each lot and to the proper drainage grates. If anything, the proper regrating and development of these building sites may in fact help take care of some of the water issues on Maple Avenue. It will not make it worse, I can promise you that.”

Stacy Brooks has lived in the 700 block of West Second Street since 2000 and said she loves where she lives.

Since 2017, she has been involved with the process to get the area declared an official historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

She is against the proposed subdivision and would like to see the community brainstorm better uses for the property that would benefit everyone.

Any construction in the area should be architecturally compatible with the homes already established there, and there also is a major drainage issue in the neighborhood already, she said.

“These problems need to be resolved before any new construction can begin regardless if there is a rezoning or not,” she said. “Adding an impermeable material to this location will only intensify the flooding issue and could have a destructive effect.”

Joe Brooks said he understands the Wetzels need to develop the property and the city’s need for more affordable housing, but he doesn’t think Maple Avenue is the right location for a subdivision.

People wanting to purchase a home in the $190,000 to $200,000 price range will not want to face the back yards of the homes that are already there, he said.

“In the past, I feel like the leaders of Seymour had a vision of the south side of Second Street to be zoned commercial, and I believe keeping that small section of land commercial is a benefit to our neighborhood and businesses on our side of the street,” he said.

Dean Jackson with Jackson County Co-Op Credit Union at 705 W. Second St. said he was concerned the sewer system in the area would not be able to handle the added capacity of 12 homes. He also said he was worried about the increase in traffic on Maple Avenue.

Resident Rhonda Frische said the city needs to stick to its zoning plan.

“Once a community starts to become lax on zoning amendments, I think it simply encourages more zoning amendments,” she said.

Clayton Wetzel said since the property is already zoned C-2, he could build 300 to 400 mini self-storage units right now on the property without having to do anything more than get a building permit.

He would rather build quality homes and address a need in the community, he said.

Commissioner Dave Eggers advised the neighbors to work with the Wetzels to find some common ground because with the property’s current C-2 zoning, they could put a lot worse things there than single-family homes, he said.

“They can put 30,000 watt LED lights that run 24/7,” Eggers said. “They can put razor wire fences. They can park semitrailers back there and have trucks running 24/7, and there ain’t a daggone thing anybody can do about it.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Seymour City Council meeting

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Council chambers at Seymour City Hall, 301 N. Chestnut St.; enter through the back entrance off Third Street

On the agenda: An ordinance to rezone property in the 600 and 700 blocks of Maple Avenue from C-2 (neighborhood commercial) to R-1 (residential) to allow for construction of a 12-lot subdivision.


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