RICHMOND, Ind. — Earlham College hopes a commercial building will fill five parcels along National Road West with businesses that cater to the college’s students.
The college, however, needs a zoning change before those hopes come to fruition.
The Richmond Advisory Plan Commission will conduct a public hearing on Earlham’s zoning request during its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday in the Hutton Room of the Richmond Municipal Building.
The Indiana Municipal Power Agency was also on the meeting’s original agenda for a public hearing on its zoning request for a seventh Richmond solar park; however, Chris Sanders, IMPA’s vice president of generation, said IMPA was delaying its appearance until the plan commission’s June meeting.
►STAY INFORMED AND SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM: Subscribe today using the link at the top of this page.
After the public hearings, the plan commission will make a recommendation on each request and return them to Richmond Common Council for approval or denial.
Earlham requests that zoning for four parcels — 527 National Road W., 531 National Road W., 535 National Road W. and 215 College Ave. — be changed from urban residential to general commercial.
A site plan shows those four parcels, plus the one at 515 National Road W. owned by Stampd Development, would be used for the commercial development just west of Needler’s Fresh Market. Thor Construction is listed as the contractor.
The development would include a 6,600-square-foot building divided into multiple businesses. The plan shows a drive-through window for a restaurant on the eastern side of the building.
A driveway off National Road West would utilize an existing alley. There would also be access from College Avenue. Parking is shown on the north, south and east sides.
Only the front stairs of the house at 527 National Road W. and three piles of rubble that used to be the houses at 527, 531 and 535 remained Monday evening after the houses were razed. The other two parcels already had been cleared.
The three houses are listed in the Wayne County Interim Report: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures History from 2001 because their historic architecture was significant. None of the houses, however, was protected because of its architecture.
The house at 527, also known as the Rowntree House, and the house at 531, known as the Hicks House, were built in 1935, while the house at 535, known as the Jay House, was built in 1910, according to the Department of Infrastructure and Development’s staff report to the plan commission.
The homes had been utilized as student housing after Earlham acquired them in 1986, but they had been empty for about three years. The zoning change application says repair costs would exceed the homes’ appraised value.
City staff recommends approval of the zoning change.
Seventh solar park
IMPA has requested that 49.6 acres west of South Round Barn Road be changed from residential zoning to institutional district zoning.
The nonprofit utility, which provides electrical power to 61 members, including Richmond Power & Light, plans a 5 megawatt solar park on the land, which is now agricultural. The parcel is south of the Eagle Trace subdivision and across South Round Barn Road from Rose Hamilton Elementary School.
IMPA’s zoning request application indicates that the solar park fits within the city’s community action plan because it supports protecting the environment and the city’s sustainability. The city staff provides no recommendation about the request’s approval; however, it does indicate that the area would be better used for housing because of existing infrastructure.
Four solar parks currently operate in Richmond, providing electricity to RP&L’s supply. According to IMPA, they supply about 170,500 kilowatt hours of electricity each day that is enough to power 3,555 homes.
Those parks are:
- Richmond 1 at RP&L headquarters at 2000 U.S. 27 S. and rated for about 1 megawatt;
- Richmond 2 at 6200 National Road E. on land formerly belonging to New Creations and rated for about 7.4 megawatts;
- Richmond 3 at 635 Commerce Road and rated for about 6.4 megawatts; and
- Richmond 4 in four parcels north and south of Industries Road west of Flatley Road and rated for about 7 megawatts.
Sanders said construction is nearing completion on the fifth Richmond solar park located southwest of the South 23rd Street and Wernle Road intersection. A zoning variance was granted for the solar use of that land.
The park is expected to be put into service next month, Sanders said, and construction on a sixth solar park is expected to begin early in 2022. That park will be immediately west of the fifth park along Wernle Road.
IMPA currently has 33 operating solar parks statewide, including Richmond’s four and one in Centerville, that produce about 800,000 kilowatt hours per day to power about 16,500 homes.
Centerville’s solar park, which is along McMinn Road, is rated for 1 megawatt and produces about 8,200 kilowatt hours per day to power 170 homes.