Westfield tables Urban Apples agenda item

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The Westfield City Council voted to table the Urban Apples planned unit development proposal at its Jan. 10 meeting, when the council was scheduled to either approve or deny the proposal.

The Urban Apples proposal encompasses roughly 24 acres on Spring Mill Road just south of Sundown Gardens, 505 W. 186th St. The proposal is a $10 million investment that includes an orchard, cidery, wine production facility and music venue, among other amenities.

Council President Mike Johns, who also serves on the city’s Advisory Plan Commission, listed several reasons he would vote against the proposal and was one of two dissenting votes against the development when it went before the city’s Advisory Plan Commission.

Johns said he was reluctant to trust petitioner and Urban Vines owner Noah Herron again after Herron was allegedly not in compliance with zoning issues at Urban Vines, a winery at 303 E. 161st St. Johns said the grape vines at Urban Vines were proposed to be planted at the front of the building and a parking lot was supposed to be in the rear. But when Urban Vines was built, the parking lot was in front, and the grape vines were in the rear.

Johns also said Urban Apples doesn’t fit the vision of the Grand Park area. He said the proposed structures for Urban Apples were not of the same quality of other buildings around Grand Park, such as West Fork Whiskey’s agritourism facility that’s under construction in northern Westfield. But attorney Matt Skelton, who was presenting on behalf of the Urban Apples petitioners, said the minimum requirements for Urban Apples architecture were higher than those for West Fork Whiskey.

“I think this is more suitable for the country, but not in a high-impact Grand Park location,” said Johns said, noting that he wants Urban Apples’ proposal to look more like Napa, Calif., wineries before he would consider approving it.

Johns also expressed concerns about the music venue drawing noise complaints, but Skelton said it would host performers only eight to 10 times a year. Johns said he still receives complaints from neighbors about live music at Urban Vines, but Herron said he hasn’t heard complaints from neighbors in 2 1/2 years.

Johns also opposes trucks proposed for the Urban Apples location.

“We need a true food element and not food trucks,” he said.

Herron did not speak during the presentation. Council member Scott Willis said he was a “huge fan” of Urban Vines and that he would vote in support of the Urban Apples proposal.

“I see this as a win because it’s a more agriculturally based business that will bring tax revenue, and it does lower the (residential) density in that area,” Willis said.

Willis also said that other developments in the area, such as West Fork Whiskey, requested abatements and tax incentives from the city, whereas Urban Apples did not request any abatements or tax incentives.

If the proposal is denied, Johns asked long would it take to be revised. Skelton said the petitioner already owns the land, which is approved for use as a wine production facility.

“It wouldn’t have enhancements made to the property,” Skelton said.
The council voted to table the proposal, 6-1, with council member Jake Gilbert being the sole “nay” vote.

For more, visit westfield.in.gov.


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