There has been a change in the plans for a property on Old State Road 46 near the Clay Lick Road intersection after a special exception to have a luxury RV park there was denied last month.

On Oct. 27, the Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals denied the special exception to allow a 185 spot luxury RV park on 20 acres of a 71.6 acre property owned by Stephen Alexander at 1415 Old State Road 46.

The property is located within town limits and is zoned business (B3), which is a service and warehouse business use designation. Under that zoning all general business uses are allowed along with a commercial parking structure, car sales room, storage warehouse, filling station and tourist home, according to the town’s zoning ordinance.

The property is also in the floodplain and has no structures on it currently. Alexander has owned the property for 30 years that is located to the right before a driver traveling from Nashville gets to the bridge over Salt Creek near the Clay Lick Road intersection

Around 40 residents attended the BZA meeting, filling the Salmon Room at the County Office Building.

Over an hour, 23 residents spoke against the proposed project with most of them living on or owning property near the property. Concerns centered on increased traffic on an already narrow county road, flooding, how sewage will be handled at the property and a possible negative impact on property values for nearby land.

Following public comments, BZA board members expressed reservations about allowing the RV park to go in that neighborhood.

The property is surrounded by properties zoned either residential, floodway and floodway fringe, according to the planning and zoning department’s staff report.

“I don’t think this is low impact zoning. I think it’s a really nice idea. I think it would be a nice park somewhere else. I think there is too much crammed onto a tiny space in a not good area,” member Darla Brown said, citing flooding, the narrow roads and how the entrance was planned to go near the curve at the bottom of the Old 46 hill.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea. I love the glamping idea. I hate the location. I do know it floods,” member Donna Lutes said.

BZA President John Dillberger said he thought it would be “irresponsible” from a public safety perspective to approve the project in that area with the traffic and flooding concerns expressed by residents.

The vote to deny the special exception was unanimous.

Change of plans

On Nov. 4, architectural project manager Eric Muehlhausen and attorney Jared Evans went before the Nashville Technical Review Committee to go over an application for certificate of appropriateness for two retail buildings on the property.

The site plan for new buildings to be located at 1415 Old State Road 46. The plan includes two retail centers, a maintenance building and a pool.

Muehlhausen and Evans represented Alexander who was not able to attend the meeting on Nov. 4.

“We have since changed plans a little bit on that (RV plan), but the buildings associated with it were still relevant to what we would like to do. There is no more camping involved,” Muehlhausen said at the TRC meeting last week.

Muehlhausen said now those behind the project are working with clients who are general commercial businesses who would open up shop in the proposed 3,700-square-feet and the 4,000-square-feet retail spaces on the property.

There are also plans to have a 1,500-square-feet maintenance building on the property.

“Much, much less of a footprint than we had before,” Muehlhausen said.

A driveway will lead to those buildings with parking available on the property. The location of the driveway was moved further south of the hill on Old State Road 46 due to the high amount of traffic coming off the hill heading towards Clay Lick Road from Nashville. The new entrance will be halfway between the bottom of the hill and the bridge over Salt Creek.

Muehlhausen also said the group was willing to work with local government to incorporate deceleration and acceleration lanes in the area to help with traffic.

“We’ll have this retail center (at the front) then you can kind of wind your way back on Blue Elk Drive past our maintenance building to the second retail center in the back,” Muehlhausen said.

Due to the project area being in the floodplain, pads for all of the buildings will be filled to bring them up two feet above the 100-year flood levels.

“Everything that we’re proposing is north of Salt Creek, so we’re aware of floodplain restrictions there,” Muehlhausen said.

He continued they will work to meet all requirements of building in a floodplain, including state and federal requirements.

The buildings were part of the original plan for the RV park.

“We shifted the uses of what is inside those to be general business and commercial. But the look and the feel and the aesthetic will still remain,” Muehlhausen said.

He added that stylistically the buildings will have “traditional styles and shapes” that are found around the area.

“A real, simple, clean traditional shape of the farmhouse vernacular, kind of a collection of more of a farmstead is what we’re creating back here,” he said.

There could also be a restaurant opened on the property since it is allowed under the current zoning.

A pool was also kept in the revamped plans for the property.

Muehlhausen said that events could also be held on the property depending on the client and what they would like to use the space for.

The project team is in talks with a couple of businesses about taking over the retail space, but have signed nondisclosure agreements while those interested businesses do market studies.

The TRC meetings are called to discuss the “details to a finer degree” for large projects in town before any project goes before the Design Review Committee, member Bruce Gould explained. The TRC then makes a recommendation to the DRC, which will have a public hearing on this project in December.

Lighting and landscape plans for the property were also discussed at the TRC meeting last week.

“It has a great park feel, so we really want to keep that. We will have minimal lighting in the parking lot that are required for safety,” Muehlhausen said of using as little of lighting as possible on the property.

He added that the goal is to leave as much of the landscape in place as possible.

Gould said that the main point of having a landscape plan was that no invasive plants would be on the property.

Muehlhausen said Alexander had hired a naturalist to identify invasive plants and show them how to remove them for long term.

Nature programs on the property were also kept in the revamped project plans. Alexander and his team are working with Matt Kerkhof from Hoosier Aquatic to help with habitats for salamanders, frogs and turtles in the creek, Muehlhausen said.

Muehlhausen said the group is in talks with different potential retailers and the buildings could be split up to provide for more businesses inside.

“We’re building the shell then depending on tenant or client, we could put dividing walls and split it into smaller stores,” he said.

“It’s hard for us to tell you what that would business would be if we don’t have them under contract.”

Muehlhausen said they are open to “interested parties.”

What about sewer?

At the BZA meeting last month, concerns were brought up about the capacity of the town’s sewer system to take on an RV campground and if the town would be allowed to take on new customers after being cited by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for violating environmental rules.

The town utilities department had indicated they could provide sewer service to the property ahead of the BZA meeting.

The current project proposal includes building a lift station on the property that will connect to a life station near Parkview Nazarene Church that will then flow into the town’s sewer system.

Muehlhausen said that everything for the sewer will go through Alexander’s property and underneath State Road 46 East.

The town’s Water/Sewer Operator Robin Willey said on Nov. 4 that the plan for additional customers will be presented to an engineer who will determine if allowing the property to hook on is OK after looking at the current sewer capacity.

IDEM notified Town Council President Jane Gore on Oct. 3 of 2020 that it had reason to believe that the town wastewater treatment plant had violated environmental rules.

After studies were done at the plant, IDEM reported the treatment plant had overflowed in February of 2019. It also reported that the town was in violation of disposing waste treatment in a manner where it was able to enter a waterway.

The Town of Nashville was recently awarded a $2 million grant from the state to improve those longstanding wastewater issues.

Willey said last week that the town has an agreement with IDEM to enhance the system over time and that IDEM had not yet said they could not add on new customers.

At the BZA meeting, member Randy Jones said he was concerned about the ability for the town to take on the RV park as a customer before saying he would vote against the project.

Dillberger also cited sewer as a reason for his vote against the project.

“I have no doubt the town wants to offer sewer service to this property for a variety of reasons. I am not clear now that they have that ability and I don’t have a document from them saying yes we have the ability and will provide it,” he said.

Residents speak out

Some of the same neighbors who attended the BZA meeting last month also attended the TRC meeting to express their concerns about the new plans for the property.

JoAnne Himebaugh’s property is to the north of Alexander’s. She has five acres that run directly next to the Alexander property. She estimated that half of her property is in the floodway and that she was concerned more flood water would come to her property after the Alexander property is developed, including raising building pads two feet above flood levels.

“We lived there for 18 years now and in that time we had three 100-year floods and a 500-year flood. They just become more frequent. I am hoping that you can give me some kind of guarantee that is not going to back up and cause the floodwaters to come up closer to our home than what they do at this point,” she said.

Muehlhausen said he was not able to provide that kind of guarantee, but that the team would work to reduce any negative impacts.

“We plan to build in the flood fringe with minimal footprints and minimal disruption within the zoning. We will do everything we can to reduce any sort of negative impact,” he said.

“We can’t make any guarantees on what would happen based on that, but we will certainly have our engineers working through all of the processes and calculations they are required to do.”

Mandy Kay lives on Old 46 near the property. She asked what the compensation would be for nearby neighbors who may have more flooding occur after the development is completed.

Planning Director Chris Ritzmann is also the county floodplain manager. She said on Nov. 4 that since the project is in a floodplain Alexander and his team will be required to get floodplain permits to build.

“That may have an effect on what kind of elevating techniques they can use. It could also be something called mechanical flood proofing, which does not involve elevation,” Ritzmann said.

Questions were asked about the planned pool and if there was a possibility lodging could be built on that property.

”We don’t have an operator for the retail centers yet. Their program will impact what their needs are. It is possible that we could find someone who would want to do a private club, put a pool back there and that would make a lot of sense,” Muehlhausen said.

Nancy Crocker, who serves on the Nashville Town Council, also attended the TRC meeting as a town resident and was not speaking on behalf of the town council. She echoed the concerns from the neighbors about the increase of traffic on Old 46.

“Old 46 is kind of a little secret road for our town. We go around traffic through that and if we have something that is a big deal out there that’s going to go away for us and that will be a big change and not necessarily a good change,” she said.

She also asked if it was possible to put the entrance for the retail centers off of the State Road 46 East highway.

But Muehlhausen said that is prohibitive because it would require building a bridge over the creek as part of the entrance.

Residents who attended the TRC meeting also expressed concerns about not knowing what types of businesses were planning to open up shop on the Alexander property.

“It’s so just ambiguous that you just say retail. That is scary for us,” Crocker said.

Muehlhausen noted that any business planning to open there would have to file for a business license.

Following comments, TRC member Jocelyn Hawkins said that the concerns raised could not be addressed by the board.

“I understand your concerns about this project,” she said.

“But this particular board you came to we only basically approve buildings, the outside structure of them, the plants, parking lots and things like that. The road concerns you have technically isn’t this board.”