Seymour BZA approves variances for 202-unit apartment complex

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Before dirt can be moved to make way for a 202-unit apartment complex in the 500 block of South Fourth Street Road in Seymour, the developer has a few steps remaining.

Alpine Studios Indy LLC of Indianapolis requested variances for units per acre, maximum lot coverage, maximum height, parking drive width and land buffer during a special meeting of the Seymour Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday. That was approved 3-1 with Dave Eggers casting the lone nay vote and President John Richey absent.

Next, the purchase of the 7.26-acre property from Robert P. VonDielingen has to be finalized, and the building has to be approved by the state.

If that all goes as planned, work will begin on the new complex a half-mile south of the intersection of East Tipton Street and South Fourth Street Road. Five buildings will be on the west side of the new Burkart Boulevard bypass that’s under construction, and two buildings will be on the east side.

Bill Braman, an attorney with Lorenzo, Bevers, Braman and Connell in Seymour, spoke on behalf of the developer during Monday’s meeting. He said the variances would directly promote the community’s goal of providing affordable housing and improve the community investments and collaboration. Average monthly rent is expected to be around $800.

The city’s ordinance requires 15 apartment units per acre, but Alpine Studios Indy received approval to permit 30.3 units per acre on the west side of Burkart Boulevard and 26.9 units on the east side for an overall density of 29.4 units per acre.

“The cost of lumber and construction materials have skyrocketed over the last 18 months, so that further adds pressure and makes compliance with the zoning ordinance requirements frankly virtually impossible in this case,” Braman said. “If the development had to comply with the 15 units per acre density and other requirements, the monthly rental would be at least $2,000. We all know that wouldn’t be feasible in this market.”

The ordinance also requires maximum lot coverage of 50%, and that changed to 67%.

“We tried to maximize the layout of the development to minimize the proximity of the buildings to neighboring properties,” Braman said.

Lisa Hoene, who lives nearby, said she’s not a fan of having a three-story building behind her home.

“I understand that they are saying we need more housing, but I don’t think that three stories in an area where everything is two stories and smaller is appropriate,” she said.

“I know that they can’t control how much money is being spent because of the cost of living and what we’ve all been through, but I also don’t think that someone living in an apartment that’s spending $800 or less is someone that I want as my neighbor,” she said. “During all of this work on the road, all of our neighbors except one have had things taken.”

Another variance changed the maximum height of the buildings from 35 feet to 43 feet, but Braman said it probably will be more like 40 feet.

The developer also received approval to go from 312 parking spaces on the west side to 287, while parking on the east side meets the parking requirements. There will be no parking allowed along Burkart Boulevard.

Chad Leinart, a civil engineer for Independent Land Surveying of Brownstown who is serving as project engineer, said the city has requirements for the number of parking spaces for one- or two-bedroom or studio apartment units along with spaces for guest parking.

Even though he based his original numbers on 214 units, Leinart said he reran them based on 202 units, and the number of parking spaces was still adequate.

“There are definitely more parking spaces than there are bedrooms,” he said. “We can make it work and meet the current city ordinance for parking.”

Leinart said Alpine Studios Indy’s units are very modular and can be switched from two bedrooms to one or to a studio apartment.

“They lowered the number of units but kept the footprint of the building the same … which reduces the parking space requirements based on those units,” he said.

Another variance changes the driveway width on the west side entrance from 30 to 41 feet, which Braman said was primarily at the request of the Seymour Fire Department to have enough ingress and egress.

Finally, a landscape buffer will be put in the right of way of Burkart Boulevard north of the entrance on the west side. The city ordinance requires a landscape buffer of 5 feet from adjoining streets.

“Any time that there is a vehicle use area being proposed, the city ordinances say that a landscape buffer has to be installed between certain areas,” Leinart said. “Between the street and their parking or driveways, we’ve got to put a row of bushes and shrubs and trees.”

In March, the Seymour Plan Commission gave a favorable recommendation for Alpine Studios Indy’s request to change the zoning from R-1 for single-family residential to R-2 for the construction of a multifamily apartment complex. The next month, the Seymour City Council gave its approval.

Since the 1960s, Braman said Alpine Studios Indy has developed numerous multifamily housing projects, primarily on the south side of Indianapolis. He said those have the same density, lot coverage and building height as the Seymour project.

“We can all acknowledge that more housing options are necessary here in the city, especially from local businesses and industries, and our proposed development is going to cater to employees of these local industries, particularly those who do not live in the area,” Braman said. “We believe that this additional housing option will give local employers an additional tool to recruit qualified employees.”

Another benefit is the property is located in a federally qualified Opportunity Zone, which is designed to spur economic development and job creation in the area by providing tax incentives to developers.

“We believe the project will promote economic development in the area and is fully consistent with the city’s goal of increased workforce housing options,” Braman said. “Alpine Studios’ investment in this project is anticipated to be in the range of $15 million, so I’d say that will be a nice bump up in assessments of property taxes payable to the city as it moves forward.”

As he did during earlier city meetings, Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., spoke in favor of the project at Monday’s meeting.

“Seymour and Jackson County as a whole are in dire need of additional housing,” he said. “When you look at the size of Jackson County, you look at all of the economic conditions in terms of unemployment rates where companies are having a difficult time attracting the workforce that they need to grow. Our organization is in support of new housing, all types of housing.”

He noted workforce housing and subdivisions being planned and a senior citizen apartment complex under construction in the city.

“I think that this project just adds to the overall appeal, which would allow Seymour and Jackson County to be really attractive, to attract additional workers, increase the population, which obviously will help the tax base, so we would encourage this board’s approval of these (variances),” Plump said.

Marcus Roberts, who lives in a condominium adjacent from the property, said he agrees more houses are needed, but not more apartments.

“We want people that want to build a career at these factories and stay at these factories and make these factories profitable, not taking people who stay for a season or a year or two and leave,” he said. “We need more affordable houses. People would like to raise their families in a house they own with a yard and not an apartment that they rent with no yard next to a two-lane road literally living on top of one another.”

Those who buy a house and build roots in the city are more likely to stay with their employer and community, Roberts said.

“Apartments typically are short-term housing and not long-term housing. The community needs long-term, invested neighbors willing to deal with and support each other,” he said. “The city of Seymour wants more families to stay and work in Seymour to overall increase the city’s economy. If this is the case, we need more family homes that are affordable in a good neighborhood.”