Seymour City Council advances rezone proposal


Clayton and Arnold Wetzel of Wetzel Properties LLC have a vision of new homes occupying 12 lots on Maple Avenue on Seymour’s west side.

Some residents along West Second Street, however, are concerned the new development would cause more flooding and drainage issues and wouldn’t fit in with the historic district that this fall was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

After spending an hour and a half hearing both sides Monday night, the Seymour City Council voted 5-2 to recommend changing the zoning from C-2 (neighborhood commercial) to R-1 (residential) for the Maplewood subdivision in the 600 and 700 blocks of Maple Avenue.

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Councilmen Drew Storey, Bret Cunningham, Matt Wheeler, Jerry Hackney and Dave Earley voted yes, while Chad Hubbard and Seth Davidson cast the dissenting votes.

The first reading of an ordinance will be considered during the next council meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 11. An ordinance has to pass two readings before it can take effect.

In August, the Seymour Plan Commission voted 8-3 to deny the Wetzels’ request to rezone the property to R-1. It was then up to the council to make the final decision.

Clayton Wetzel said the parcels were platted as a subdivision in 1914, but the city didn’t adopt zoning or zoning maps until 1977.

“It is simply our vision to rezone and develop Maplewood into an upscale single-family neighborhood,” he said. “This location is not feasible for commercial development, as it lacks frontage, foot traffic and visibility, which makes it perfect for single-family homes.”

While there isn’t a lack of vacant commercial space in Seymour, Clayton said there is a lack of quality-built, new construction homes at the price point of Maplewood, which would be around $190,000.

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

Guidelines will be put into place to ensure a certain level of quality and value is maintained with the homes, he said.

On Aug. 26, 2017, the Wetzels met with residents of the surrounding neighborhood to discuss rezoning the property to R-3 (multifamily housing). Pushback, however, resulted in the proposal being dropped.

They met with residents two more times and now feel moving to R-1 is the best use of the property that will have the greatest positive overall impact for the city and neighborhood, Clayton said.

They also have carefully monitored the concerns about water and drainage issues in the past three years, he said.

“Before the purchase of the property in 2017, Premier (Companies) spent a large sum of money hiring certified engineers and gaining state and city approval to install an efficient water drainage system along the back side of Maple,” he said, noting proper regrading and development of the property should help take care of any possible water issues on Maple Avenue.

Clayton also said some plan commissioners were concerned about soil quality or lack thereof. He provided the city council a summary of a 185-page in-depth soil analysis dated Jan. 16, 2014, showing the soil has been properly reworked, tested and approved by American Environmental Corp. and prepared for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Plus, he said they have worked with Duke Energy, MetroNet, Indiana American Water and Seymour Water Pollution Control to provide necessary utilities to the proposed homes.

Roger Wessel, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty in Seymour, read a letter from Indiana certified residential appraiser Bill Koleszar before voicing his approval of the project.

Since homes of similar size and price range in Seymour have recently sold, Koleszar said the Wetzels’ subdivision would have a positive effect on the existing nearby homes and general neighborhood.

Wessel said there is a housing shortage in that price range around the state.

“Anybody willing to step up and put in some affordable housing should be welcomed, I think,” he said. “There are no adverse negative effects. From my personal and professional opinion, this would only increase property values.”

Arnold Wetzel said the subdivision would fit into the neighborhood “really well.”

“Being born and raised on Carter Boulevard, I know the area, I love the boulevards and the school district and I think we have a really good plan to put new homes in this area,” he said. “I do believe now is the time to move forward with it.”

The council then took comments against the proposal. Those came from residents who live in the 700 block of West Second Street.

Stacy and Joe Brooks and their son, Marcus, were among the 15 people present who are opposed to the project.

Stacy Brooks and Denise Siefker began the efforts in 2017 to get the Westside Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Stacy said the main idea was to receive protection, property values and tax credits so residents could make improvements to their historic homes.

A new building or structure that doesn’t blend into the historic district can be intrusive and detrimental, Stacy said. Plus, she’s concerned with increased drainage and flooding issues and doesn’t think the 21-foot-wide Maple Avenue can accommodate extra congestion.

“I would also think that if our federal government recognized the importance of protecting historical districts that our own local government, the city of Seymour, would like to protect it, as well,” Stacy said.

Stacy and Siefker both said they are not in favor of spot zoning. Siefker said she doesn’t think the subdivision would make the neighborhood more valuable and would rather see it developed as a commercial property.

“We see new neighborhoods deteriorate in only a few short years in our town, and we foresee the same result with such a property if this project goes through,” she said. “If you approve this zoning request, it will appear that anyone can buy property and expect that just by asking and pushing hard enough, the city will change the zoning to where the property owner wishes.”

Siefker said some people stated residents on West Second Street don’t want change, but that isn’t true.

“The change we want is to restore our neighborhood to its former glory, and we ask that you will allow us to continue to do so,” she said.

She asked if an environmental site assessment recommended by city engineer and plan commissioner Bernie Hauersperger had been performed.

Clayton said soil sampling and testing was done and the property was certified and state approved, but Brooks and Siefker said they would like to see the environmental site assessment.

“Before anything can be built, something must be done about the flooding in this area,” Siefker said. “These are our homes, our pride. We ask that you please consider all of the homeowners in our neighborhood. Please consider our quality of life and our own investments in our property. Real estate investors will come and go, but we are in this for the long haul. We are vested in this area.”

Joe Brooks said his top issues are greater risk of flooding and residential development on a commercial site, while Marcus said congestion in the area is a concern.

“A person buying land should have the opportunity to develop it and make money, but land must adequately support that development, and for the reasons I’ve given, I believe this land is not really suited for residential houses,” Joe said.

Dan Robison is the newest resident on the block and lives in the oldest house, built in 1900. He asked Clayton if the rezone is not approved, what’s a viable financial option to exercise his right as a property owner.

Clayton said a 400-unit self-storage facility is not feasible because it would take up more space and he would lose all runoff and control of maneuvering water.

Robison said he would rather see homes than storage units, and he sees the perspectives of both the Wetzels and his neighbors.

“But at the end of the day, when this intersects reality at some point, I would rather have single-family homes there than a storage unit, which we all know would also become single-family homes. That’s just the reality of it,” Robison said, as thefts and homeless people living in storage units are common. “I don’t see how I could support storage units being the right option for this property.”

Mark and Rhonda Frische both spoke against the proposal.

“There are a lot of other better options out there to buy a house for $190,000 or whatever. I just don’t think their design is the best design,” said Mark, who has been a builder for more than 40 years. “There also needs to be a better way to address the water.”

The councilmen thanked everyone for participating in the meeting.

“It speaks volumes about the neighborhood,” Storey said. “Thanks for including the councilmen and following through with this process. It’s not very often that people are coming to council to be a part of this process.”

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