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St. Joseph Farms gets first approval to rezone over 900 acres of farmland

Preliminary plans for proposed development near Capital Avenue and Cleveland Road
Graphic courtesy of St. Joseph County Development Department staff
Preliminary plans for proposed development near Capital Avenue and Cleveland Road

Historic development deals are taking place on both ends of St. Joseph County that promise to alter the agricultural character of the region.

Out west near New Carlisle, the county is set to consider granting tax abatement to an $11 billion project — rumored to be an Amazon data center.

And on Tuesday’s the county’s Area Plan Commission gave preliminary approval to rezone 900 acres of farmland to industrial use on the eastern edge of the county in southern Granger.

The stretch of land sits between Cleveland, Bittersweet and the I-90 Interstate and is currently owned by St. Joseph Farms. The farm’s owner Paul Blum told officials the land was once extremely productive but says that too much silt in the soil means he’s looking to move on.

Blum added he and his family will continue to live at their home which is adjacent to the lot up for sale.

“We’re going to live right at the farm, right in the midst of everything. Not be fearful of anything,” Blum said. “I welcome prosperity with a full heart."

However, other nearby residents, like Steve Francis, spoke out against the rezoning with concerns about traffic, the impact to the environment as well as the loss of historic farmland.

“We need to understand, you can move from ag[riculture] land to industry but you almost never can move back,” Francis said.

But county redevelopment staff pointed out that land around Capital Avenue has always been eyed for light industrial use, though they noted any activity on the site will need to wait for the city of Mishawaka to extend water and sewer lines out to the area.

Members of the Area Plan Commission agreed. They said that St. Joseph Farms had done enough to address concerns by committing in writing to prohibit certain heavy industrial uses and to keep a 200 feet green space buffer around Juday Creek where it runs through the property.

Area Plan Commission member DJ Tavernier pointed out there needs to be a traffic impact study.

“I just moved from a mile and a half from this area,” Tavernier said. “I understand 100% the dumpster fire that traffic is out there. I know it’s been on their radar for a long time. Maybe this is the thing that kicks off fixing the traffic issue.”

What developers would do with the land isn’t exactly clear at this stage, but community members on both sides of the zoning issue are under the impression it would be used for a data center.

Plans presented by county development staff show there would be three buildings on the site all in the northeast corner of the property and that around 300 employees would work on the site.

The rezoning now goes to the county council for approval.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.