In unusual move, Goshen council OKs zoning change for proposed apartments after earlier denial
In an unusual move, the Goshen Common Council reversed course Monday and approved a zoning change for a proposed apartment complex on the former Western Rubber brownfield site. The council had originally denied the zoning change in a 4 to 3 vote earlier this month.
The $31 million Ariel Cycleworks project is being proposed by developer Anderson Partners. It would contain about 136 apartments and serve as “workforce” housing, meaning the vast majority of units would go for $900 to $1,400 a month — about 60 to 120 percent of area median income — and a portion would be set aside for rent by essential workers.
The proposal also includes a coffee shop and a connection to the 9th Street bicycle greenway. And because of the Western Rubber site’s status as a brownfield, it incorporates extensive green infrastructure and stormwater infrastructure to properly manage runoff.
A special tax financing district for the project won the council’s approval back in April, and a zoning change from industrial to residential mixed use development won approval from the city’s planning commission in a 5 to 4 vote in May.
But in early June, the common council narrowly denied a needed zoning change after nearby residents raised concerns over increased traffic and parking issues — seemingly killing the project.
But on June 17, council member Matt Schrock — who originally voted against the zoning change — brought forward a motion to reconsider it after working with the developer to create a revised site plan in response to those concerns.
The unusual procedure has only happened three times in the past 15 years. The motion was immediately tabled to June 27 to allow for members of the public to comment. Schrock’s amendments will:
- Remove about eight bedrooms and a proposed makerspace while keeping a coffee shop, reducing building A by over 8,000 square feet. The number of units remains the same at 136 — some two-bedrooms will be replaced by one-bedrooms and studios.
- Increase the setbacks between building A, Plymouth Avenue and 10th Street.
- Reduce the number of required parking spaces from 204 to 195.
- Add 35 additional public parking spaces on the south side of Douglas Street, for a total of 209.
“I think these changes address some of the residents' concerns,” Schrock said. “And of course, everybody knows that Goshen does need housing desperately — not just affordable housing, but all housing.”
“I really do feel for the people that just don’t want their neighborhood to change — I don’t like change either,” he added.
In addition, the city said earlier in June that it plans to replace the 10th Street water main, reconstruct the roadway and add sidewalks, on-street parking for existing residents, curbing and dry wells to facilitate drainage.
During a nearly three-hour meeting Monday, some nearby residents expressed the same concerns despite the revised site plan.
Bill Malone, the vice president of manufacturing at next door’s Gleason Industrial Products, criticized it as a plan to push the company out.
“We have to offload trucks on 10th Street, now you’re exacerbating the traffic situation all the more,” Malone said. “I can’t operate without doing that — you’re running me out of town. We have 125 jobs, non-RV related.”
But numerous supporters also spoke up, saying Goshen simply needs more housing. That includes Goshen College junior Lukas Bontrager-Waite.
“For people who are under 30, under 25, under 20 who are from Goshen and would like to live here in the future — we need housing, desperately,” Bontrager-Waite said. “To the point that post-college, post trade school, whatever it is, it would be fiscally irresponsible to try and live here or try and get up on your feet in this area, because housing and cost of living is far too high.”
Goshen resident Benjamin Rogers called the project a “best case scenario” for the lot.
“It’s simply unrealistic to assume it’s going to stay a vacant green field,” Rogers said. “And when the alternatives would be something along the lines of a commercial development, possibly a factory, a housing development like this would be the least intrusive addition to the community.”
Marilyn Torres lives four blocks away. She’s a member of Faith Mennonite Church, which owns two houses on 7th Street where people dealing with housing insecurity can stay for three months while looking for a permanent home.
“Unfortunately in Goshen, people often need more time than that, so we always have a waiting list of people looking for a safe place to stay,” Torres said. “Goshen has a housing crisis that must be addressed immediately.”
She said the project is not her “ideal” solution to the housing crisis.
“But it is a viable one. So regardless of your ideal for what this project should be, please vote yes for this ordinance because it is good for Goshen,” Torres said.
Several local politicians, including Elkhart Common Council member Aaron Mishler and Elkhart County Commissioners Suzanne Weirick and Brad Rogers, also spoke in favor of the project.
In the end, the council approved the zoning change 6 to 0, with council member Brett Weddell abstaining. The new plan must now go back to the city’s redevelopment commission, which has expressed support for it.
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