The Noblesville Common Council listened to petitioner Beaver Materials, experts on water resources and real estate and concerned residents for more than two hours June 14 during a public hearing for the Beaver Materials rezone request for property northwest of 191st Street and Allisonville Road.
The petition proposes an expansion to Potter’s Bridge Park in collaboration with the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept. after a five-year sand and gravel extraction process in the area. A residential component also is planned.
The council will vote on the project at its June 28 meeting.
If approved, the project would eventually expand the Potter’s Bridge Park by approximately 50 acres. Ten acres would be donated to the park immediately after approval. When Beaver Materials finishes extracting the site, the additional 40 acres would be donated to the park. A little more than 8 acres would be used for a residential development. The remaining land would be donated to Hamilton County Parks Dept. to develop as park land.
The public hearing was the council’s first introduction to the proposal, which was forwarded with an unfavorable recommendation from the plan commission last month in a 7-3 vote.
INTERA, an environmental and water resource consulting firm, was commissioned by Beaver Materials to complete a water study for the area. Beaver Materials would be responsible for installing two or more wells upstream of wells already in place that provide water from the White River for residential use. The new wells would be designed to catch contaminants soon enough for remediation before contaminated water reached wells for residential use.
INTERA research hydrologist Jack Wittman told council members that after further studying the area, the environmental risk is small.
William Otto Spencer, who owns a real estate company, told the council the extraction process would not harm property values in the area. Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Chris Stice also presented, outlining the five phases to the park plan, which would add a canoe and kayak launch, art trails and other amenities.
“Hamilton County is in a critical state for park land,” Stice said. “We need more park land as we continue to develop our community.”
At a recent meeting, the Hamilton County Commissioners unanimously voted to support the proposal and committed to fund the development of the park area. Hamilton County Council members issued a letter of support for the project.
Some residents still weren’t pleased with the proposal. Many spoke against it during the public hearing, saying the proposal didn’t fit zoning requirements for the area and expressing concerns about the risk to water quality, health risks associated with silica dust, traffic safety and inconsistency with the overall proposal.
Rachel Walker, a principal geologist with Mundell & Associates, voiced concerns with the project. Mundell & Associates is the contractor that assesses new wellfield construction in Marion County. Walker said mine pit design details were lacking for the project, spill management details were lacking and – despite the installment of sentinel wells that could limit the impact of a toxic release into the water – they would not prevent a release.
Resident Kevin Moloney said the size of the excavation site has been inconsistent, having been proposed as 12 acres and 30 acres.
“They seem to not have a handle on the most important detail of their own project,” he said. “Or they’re leaving it intentionally fuzzy.”
Moloney also accused Beaver Materials of engaging in a “quid pro quo” with the parks department.
“Beaver Materials wants to trade land for an ordinance,” he said. “They call it a donation, but what they’re seeking is a quid pro quo or a pay to play.”
After Moloney’s presentation, Noblesville’s city attorney Jonathan Hughes said there was nothing illegal about negotiations between Beaver Materials and the parks department.
Only three people spoke in favor of the proposal. They were Hamilton County Council member Brad Beaver and two employees of William Otto Spencer Real Estate.
At the end of the public hearing, Beaver Materials President Chris Beaver, a Noblesville resident, told the council he believed he was doing the best thing for the Noblesville community. He said sand and gravel extracted from the site wouldn’t cover costs of the process but wanted to help the city establish a quality park. He said he personally bought the land so that the company would not lose money on it.
“I realized then there was a calling in my heart that I could do something that could change this park to be the best park in the state of Indiana,” Beaver said. “I personally would not do anything that would hurt anybody in this town. I am very passionate about this city and the county, and I have shown that in many ways.”
For more, visit cityofnoblesville.org.