Opponents claim planning falls short on Lanesville road
In the face of opposition, Indianapolis-based American Consulting has extended the public comment period regarding the proposed Lanesville-Georgetown connector road.
County engineer Kevin Russel said the extension was given to allow people more time to submit comments during the busy holiday season.
Comments submitted by Jan. 30 will be accepted and included in the final environmental assessment report which will be submitted to the Indiana Dept. of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. Comments can be mailed to Paul A. Johnson, Environmental Project Manager, 7260 Shadeland Station, Indianapolis, IN 46256, e-mailed to [email protected] or faxed to 1-317-543-0270.
Johnson, environmental project manager for American Consulting, said the firm has received about 10 written comments since the public hearing on Dec. 13.
Officials at American Consulting are hoping they will receive a ‘finding of no significant impact,’ which would allow them to move forward with the project.
Johnson said if a full environmental impact study is required, it could delay the project for more than a year.
Most of the comments regarding the project were made at the public hearing by residents of the Lanesville and Georgetown area. American Consulting recorded those comments and will transcribe and include them in the environmental assessment report they will submit to state and federal officials in February.
Most Lanesville-area residents at the public hearing earlier this month widely opposed the new road, claiming it was neither needed nor wanted. Some believe county officials had another agenda other than relieving traffic congestion at the Interstate 64 interchanges in Floyd County, which many said should not be a Harrison County problem.
Many think the purpose is solely development. Most said the proposed $16 million to $20 million it would cost to build the road is too high, even though it will be paid for with a combination of state and federal funds.
One of the residents who spoke at length during the public hearing was Bill Osborne, who with his wife, Yvette, lives on 25 acres off Old Lanesville Road.
The Osbornes are both opposed to the connector road. Alternate four, which is favored by American Consulting, would take the road through the Osbornes’ property, about 100 yards from their back door.
They have lived on the property since 1996 and said they enjoy everything their land has to offer, which includes a stream with minnows, an abundance of wild animals, an old log cabin foundation and spring house, and a small forest behind their house.
If alternate four is chosen, a portion of the trees would be taken out and replaced with pavement, and either a bridge or culvert would be put in place to secure the road over the stream that runs through the Osbornes’ property.
Johnson said each stream crossing would be designed individually.
‘There are a lot of options,’ he said.
However, losing the serenity their property offers is not the only thing that troubles the Osbornes.
Bill Osborne said in an interview that he was not contacted by American Consulting when they completed the field survey in the spring of 2005. All five proposed alternates were physically walked through in order to complete the environmental assessment.
State law requires that residents be made aware of the date their property is going to be visited, and also those conducting the field survey must make their presence known to the property owner before entering the property.
The Osbornes said they were notified by mail the dates American Consulting would be visiting, so they made a point of staying home during those five days. The letter they received from American Consulting shows their property would have been visited between July 11 and July 15, 2005.
‘It rained the week of the 11th through the 15th,’ Yvette said in an interview. The Osbornes said no one from American Consulting announced they were there.
Bill Osborne said he had also made a special request to Johnson asking that Johnson notify him before entering the property because he wanted to show him aspects of the stream and the log cabin foundation. Osborne said he was afraid the creek on his property would be labeled ‘dry’ when there is water running through the creek bed most of the time. Osborne said Johnson did not notify him when they visited.
‘Given that I asked to show the property, and they violated state law by not knocking on the door, I feel he (Johnson) didn’t want to see me,’ Bill Osborne said.
Photos of the Osbornes’ property were included in the assessment.
Johnson said the Osbornes were not home at the time of the visit.
Bill Osborne said he sent a letter regarding the field survey and received no response. He said he also sent letters to INDOT and has not received a response.
The Osbornes said they also responded to a legal notification regarding the finding for alternate four that there were no buildings of historic nature, but received no response. The environmental assessment states no comments were received in response to that notice.
Johnson said he received the Osbornes’ comment, but it was received after the deadline. Johnson also said the historic aspects of the Osbornes’ property were submitted with their finding of no buildings of historic nature to the state historic officer at the Dept. of Natural Resources. DNR agreed with American Consulting’s finding, and federal officials have approved the finding.
Johnson also said only property on or eligible for inclusion in the national registry would be considered historic property.
‘It’s not just general historic property,’ Johnson said.
Johnson said comments regarding the historical nature of residents’ property can also be submitted before Jan. 30, and they will be included.
Other concerns raised by the Osbornes were issues with zoning. The area around the Lanesville interchange was rezoned in 2003 to commercial and light industrial. However, the area north of Old Lanesville Road and the railroad tracks to S.R. 64 were zoned residential in 1977, and no changes have been made since.
‘For businesses, anything north of the railroad tracks would need to be rezoned,’ Eric Wise, county planner, said.
Residents also said during the public hearing the road was not needed due to the planned expansion of Interstate 64 by INDOT, which is slated to begin in 2010.
County Engineer Kevin Russel said the proposed extension of Interstate 64 did not have an impact on the Lanesville connector road project, construction of which he said should begin as early as 2008.
Russel said from a local perspective the road is needed for economic development, especially since the county has lost jobs due to the closing of Tower Automotive and Keller Manufacturing. Russel said an increase in commercial businesses would also increase the tax base and help lower taxes for residents.
‘I think the commissioners should be applauded,’ Russel said. ‘They can’t snap their fingers and create jobs.’
Russel said the first phase of the Lanesville connector road is already in design and is about 65 to 70 percent complete. The first phase will widen the existing Lanesville Road to two lanes on each side with a turning lane, for a total of five lanes. The second phase is the building of the extension north towards S.R. 64 from Lanesville Road.
‘It’ll be built in different phases also,’ Russel said.
The Osbornes said they would like to see a full environmental impact study of the proposed routes. Bill Osborne has also started a petition opposing the new road and has given a copy to the Harrison County Commissioners and planned to give a copy to the Harrison County Council last night.
‘I feel like I’ve been wronged in the process,’ Bill Osborne said. ‘I could understand, or accept it better, if the people who decide the filling in of the creek or the historical aspect of the house saw what they were talking about.’
Yvette Osborne, who believes the road is not needed, said if the road does go in to develop the interchange, she hopes the development will be something special, not just a generic stop.
‘They have to get all their ducks in a row before they start,’ she said. ‘They’re not going to get another shot at it.’