Goshen city council finalizes lippert annexation local news goshennews.com gas jewelry

Council members had originally been set to vote on the request on first reading during their Jan. 16 meeting, though the request was eventually tabled after several residents raised concerns about the proposed annexation and its potential impact to their homes.

While Lippert officials had disclosed their plans for the new development from the beginning, representatives of D-ACT-Z had no defined plans for their portion of the property. Given that uncertainty related to D-ACT-Z’s plans for the property, coupled with the sheer amount of land targeted for annexation, a number of residents with homes located near the proposed site came forward early on in the annexation process to raise concerns about the proposal.

Among the biggest concerns expressed by many of the affected residents was the fact that if both the Lippert and D-ACT-Z annexations were allowed to proceed, many of the homeowners would see their properties completely surrounded by industrial land. Currently a mix of Industrial M-2 and Agricultural A-1 zoning, the annexation agreement calls for the property to be zoned Industrial M-1, or light manufacturing, upon annexation into the city.

In an attempt at finding a solution that would be acceptable to all parties, council members during their Feb. 6 meeting agreed to consider removing the approximately 180 acres of D-ACT-Z property from the overall annexation request. The move, which received D-ACT-Z’s blessing, was seen as a way to lessen the amount of industrially zoned land impacting the nearby homeowners, while still allowing Lippert to proceed with its development.

Council members ultimately voted to approve Lippert’s annexation request on first reading while voting to table D-ACT-Z’s request, rather than deny it outright. Doing so, they said, would give city staff time to determine if Lippert’s property was large enough on its own to meet the state’s contiguity requirement for annexation.

According to city attorney Larry Barkes, in order for the city to pass an annexation, one-eighth of the area being annexed has to be contiguous to the existing corporate boundaries. While Lippert’s property was believed to meet that requirement, it was only by a very slim margin, he explained.

For her part, Yoder said she felt the council was moving too fast when it came to the annexation process, and wished there had been more time for her and her neighbors to meet with Lippert representatives to discuss what exactly the company has planned for the property before the council pulled the trigger on the annexation.

“I just want to make sure that we are being heard,” Yoder said. “This is not easy for us. We live in the country. I know it’s going to happen, but I just really wish this neighborhood meeting would take place before you guys approve this. I just feel like there has to be some understandings before this happens, otherwise we have no leverage. So I just want you to understand, this is not easy for us. We are country people, and so this is a change, and we would like to have at least a time to go through some of this stuff.”

When questioned by the council about Lippert’s willingness to have such a meeting moving forward, John Simon, a project manager with Lippert, indicated that the company would be very willing to have such a meeting with the neighbors if it meant a better relationship down the road.

“I’m hearing a good faith effort that these folks are going to get together as soon as physically and logistically possible and set up a meeting,” Scharf said. “I feel like I’ve heard interest in and good faith commitments on both sides to do that.”

“I do want everybody that lives out there to know I take your concerns very seriously,” Stutsman said. “These roles up here are tough, because we’re trying to look at your concerns and seriously taking those into consideration, and also trying to match that up to another property owner and what they’d like to do with their property, and then turning around and trying to match that up with how it affects an entire community. So these are all a lot of our concerns I believe.”

In the end, the council chose to vote in favor of the annexation, and the request was approved in a vote of 6 to 0 in favor with one “present” vote by Councilman Ed Ahlersmeyer, who chose to abstain from voting due to his work affiliation with Lippert.

According to Lippert, the property approved for annexation could potentially house up to three new facilities down the line, though the company’s current plan is for the construction of one $20 million facility at the site. Plans for the new facility include the purchase of several million dollars worth of equipment such as high-tech laser cutters, automated packaging machines and welding automation with robotics.

Once the new facility is constructed, the company plans to transfer about two-thirds of its workforce, or about 550 employees, from its nearby Plant 45, located at 2703 College Ave., to the new facility. The old plant will then be utilized primarily as a warehouse for the storage of raw materials.

As for the city’s responsibilities when it comes to the annexation, the agreement with Lippert stipulates that the city will extend water and sewer lines to the C.R. 36 property which can then be utilized by the proposed Lippert development. The city will also construct new curbs and gutters and a 10-foot-wide sidewalk along C.R. 36 from the railroad tracks to C.R. 31.

For its part, Lippert will be responsible for the initial cost of all necessary right of way acquisition, design, field investigation, geotechnical work, permitting and construction of the proposed infrastructure. The city will then reimburse Lippert for those expenses through the use of tax increment financing revenues generated by the creation of a new TIF district for the area.