Close to 30 were drawn to the joint Batesville Advisory Plan Commission and Batesville Board of Zoning Appeals meetings Dec. 5 to learn more about a proposed development of single-family homes, patio homes and apartments south of the city.
Mike Perleberg, Cedar Grove, said he has developed neighborhoods of family homes, condominiums and multi-family type construction mostly in western Hamilton County, Ohio, and Woodridge Estates between Bright and Lawrenceburg in Dearborn County (www.americandevco.com).
Perleberg and a pilot friend, Ted Bauer, flew over some land Bauer and Lenny Pragar owned in rural Batesville. It was not for sale then, but the pair eventually approached Perleberg, who showed it to his wife. “We fell in love with the property” and a deal was made. Perleberg and a partner, Batesville developer Charlie Gillman, as LSL Holdings purchased the 60 acres between State Road 129 and Bischoff Reservoir. “We’re going to name this development Lakeshore Landing.”
“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” he said. “I wanted to find out what the city needed,” so he met with leaders and learned “they need more workforce housing to help the businesses in the area.” Perleberg and Gillman wanted to design a subdivision that addressed different housing needs.
He knows more residential housing can facilitate economic and business growth. “There’s an old adage, ‘If you’re not growing, you’re dying.’” The co-developer predicted the city will continue to expand. “They have so many nice things here.”
David Raver, president of both panels, explained the applicant had three requests: rezone an area that borders S.R. 129 from Business-2 to Residential-2 to make way for patio homes; rezone the property’s southern end from R-2 to R-4 to allow apartments; and grant a variance for a portion of the development to change the minimum lot size from 7,200 square feet to 5,000, which would help make patio homes more affordable.
Perleberg used a laser pointer to explain the plan. Apartments would be built on the south 17 acres bordered by S.R. 129 and County Road 1400 North. BAPC member Tracy Rohlfing asked about the number of apartments. The developer said if the land is rezoned, then he’ll finalize a design. Perleberg guessed the complex would have 150-160 units, a mix of three-bedroom townhomes containing 1,350 square feet for $1,250 monthly, and two-bedroom apartments of around 900 and 1,000 square feet at $800 a month or so. “The need for that type of housing is incredible.”
Monthly rents would be market rate. “I don’t do subsidized or tax credit housing.”
One hundred seventeen homes would vary in size and price.
He proposed 40 patio homes facing S.R. 129 sized at about 1,300 square feet and selling between perhaps $175,000-$225,000 on smaller lots that would require a variance aimed at meeting the demand for “workforce type housing that the city was looking for.” Perleberg observed, “It’s not an uncommon thing anymore” to have more dense housing and some homeowners like having less grass to mow.
Fifty-three interior lots behind the patio homes would contain homes selling in the $250,000-$500,000 range.
“We have 24 lakefront homes” that most likely would be larger and luxurious on expansive lots.
Perleberg said he wanted to create landscape mounds among the patio homes. “Not only is it attractive,” but the mounds would diminish highway noise. “I don’t want the residents to have to deal with that. It’s a good buffer.”
He promised, “We want to do a lot of really nice things,” from making islands in the drives to adding nice plantings and trees. The co-developer desired creating a subdivision that is better than standard and appealing as S.R. 129 is a major corridor. “After all, I’ve got to sell these.”
Then it was time for neighbors to ask questions and sound off.
Lee Jones, who lives at Hillindale Commons, the adjacent neighborhood to the north, believed the patio homes’ smaller lots “would have a negative effect on everybody’s property values in the Hillindale area.”
Dawn Campbell, 325 S.R. 129, directly across from Lakeshore Landing, said, “I definitely appreciate the thought of the noise protection. 129 is a very loud road. At 4:45 a.m. the traffic wakes you up.” She worried mounds across the road would make the noise louder to her.
A man who lives on Winding Way asked, “Once that’s completely built out, that’s going to dump a bunch of traffic on 129. ... Is that going to need to be a four-lane road?”
Raver answered, “I can’t imagine ... this additional amount of homes would even remotely be something (INDOT) would be concerned with.” He said there would probably be two entrances/exits both onto 129. Tim Macyauski, the city’s director of operations, who oversees buildings and streets, said the state or city may ask for a traffic count if the highway gets congested.
Mark Werner, who is developing 37 residential lots in Hillindale Commons’ newest section just north of Lakeshore Landing, reported several couples he’s spoken to disapprove of the more petite lot sizes. He warned, “If you approve the lower amount, you definitely open the door for more adjustments to be made.” Werner said a road that could have connected Hillindale to the proposed subdivision will be eliminated. “All of Hillindale and (owners in) my development want to see the integrity of the lot values maintained as much as possible.”
Werner suggested city leaders and developers discuss the best place to build homes on tiny lots. Later Raver wondered if there is a market for nice homes on smaller lots. “As a city, we need to look at our residential zoning areas and decide if in fact there is a place for smaller lot sizes,” then the city council could work to rewrite the code.
Raver reminded, “This is not the final plat. This is a presentation to give you a sense of the concept.” Once more details are finalized, the city’s Technical Advisory Committee to BAPC will review utilities and school bus routes, and police and firefighters will consider public safety issues. “Sometimes that will trigger a change.” Then the final plat — complete with street widths, curbs, gutter, detention ponds and fire hydrants — would be approved by BAPC.
John Tuttle, 387 S.R. 129, said, “It is my heartfelt opinion that we either stay with the code or increase it to minimum half acre lots to keep the community looking like it is. That (patio home) section, if it’s built, within 10 years it will look like a slum area and I’d hate to see that.”
Raver said later in the meeting, “I find it hard to believe this is going to turn into a slum.”
BAPC member Jim Fritsch reported, “Not everyone wants 3 acres to take care of, but they still want a nice home in a nice neighborhood.” He said just because homes are constructed on minimal lots, “it doesn’t turn into a slum.” The architect imagined first-time and last-time home buyers and area grads returning here would welcome attractive homes on smaller lots.
Linda Tuttle, John’s wife, said, “I am for having the residential rather than the business. I’m not in favor of 5,000-square-foot lots and I’m not in favor of apartments.” She wondered if a feasibililty study showed the need for 117 homes.
Raver answered that developers do informal studies. “It’s their money and they’re making that investment. We’ve never had many homes for sale. We’re in dire need of homes. Homes that are being built are being sold pretty quickly. ... The developer has a lot of skin in the game and will be reasonably careful” in how the subdivision is constructed.
Judy Meyer, 343 S.R. 129, said, “I disagree with the apartments and reduction of land size.” She also didn’t want 117 homes across the street.
Hillindale Commons resident Mary Beth Welsh observed, “I’m going to see lots and lots of houses ... we all have very nice homes and side lots.” She wanted the new neighborhood to follow suit.
Raver pointed out that over half the houses comply with city rules. “We cannot force developers to build larger houses. ... We don’t have the authority to mandate what a builder does .... That’s where you should want it to stop.” He reflected that when area residents live near open lots, in the future, “we can’t control how that property is used. There’s a risk for all of us when we’re sitting next to something that is open that it will not go our way.”
After not hearing anyone speak out in favor of small lots, Perleberg announced, “We’ll do the 7,200-square-foot lots” for the patio homes. “It seems like that’s amicable to everybody. My property value, my property value,” he mused, summing up what attendees were concerned about. “Your property values are looking fine.”
Hillindale resident Anthony Casablanca asked, “Why do you say that?” Perleberg answered, “We have a lot of really nice stuff going in here. These homes along the lake are going to be awesome.”
He told BAPC and BBZA members, “You’re going to take a look at this and say, ‘Is this something we want to do or not?’”
The co-developer held up The Herald-Tribune’s recent city council candidate profiles, noting four out of six wanted more worker housing, characterizing them as “homes clustered with greenspace around them. It doesn’t hurt anything. It’s not far different than Hillindale,” which has patio homes and apartments in addition to typical single-family homes.
BBZA member Chris Fairchild told Perleberg, “I understand your vision. The complexes you’re describing are being put up all across the country in bigger cities ... If you can get the lawn mower between the houses, you’re lucky. These are not cookie cutter homes, they’re beautiful” with varied exteriors that complement each other. “I think we need it ... in this community.”
Perleberg said, “You’re right, these will sell very quickly.” When the developer talked to Sarah Lamping, the city’s economic development director, she reported patio homes are in high demand. “It’s a lifestyle our population is getting more geared to. You see it everywhere now — northern Kentucky, West Chester,” Ohio.
Clerk-treasurer Paul Gates, a Hillindale Commons resident, pointed out, “You have no recreational space whatsoever.” He also noted the homes could have many different builders and vary in quality. According to Perleberg, the subdivision will have covenants and a homeowners association to aid consistency.
Gates said, “I think that’s important to the Hillindale people. That’s what protected everybody.”
BAPC and BBZA member Tony Gutzwiller suggested that Perleberg have more discussions with neighbors. “I think there’s a great opportunity here to have a partnership with a property that’s going to be developed.” Jones suggested Perleberg present plans to Hillindale Commons residents, just like Werner did.
Perleberg reported, “I will regroup with some engineers and work on some things.”
Raver read about a dozen letters from neighbors. Viji Saravanan was strongly opposed to rezoning. Janice Bradley disliked the proposed small lots. The Hillindale Homeowners Association board of directors was opposed to any change to the R-2 minimum lot size, worried about setting a precedent.
As the meeting ground on past two hours, Raver’s voice grew hoarse reading the letters with similar sentiments. He said flatly, “We’re not taking any action tonight.”
Gillman, the co-developer, wondered, “Does it make sense to go ahead and vote to change (the zoning) from business to residential on that front part?” He said with more internet shopping, customers are purchasing less from actual physical stores. “I’m hearing there’s more demand for housing than that business space there.”
He suggested the groups could discuss rezoning land for the apartments at a later meeting.
Macyauski noted the developers’ plat didn’t exactly spell out how large the proposed R-2 and R-4 areas are so nothing could be voted on at the meeting. Raver asked for a survey.
Due to the New Year’s holiday, the next meeting, which is open to the public, will be Thursday, Jan. 9, at 6:30 p.m. in the Memorial Building’s council chambers. After BAPC makes rezoning recommendations, the city council has the final say on whether zoning changes.
A more extensive article is online.