Former Syracuse School Property Rezoned

Three agenda items before the Kosciusko County Area Plan Commission on Wednesday pertained to the town of Syracuse – the rezoning of the former Syracuse Elementary School, the designation of a TIF district at the Tech Park and an appointment to the Syracuse Board of Zoning Appeals.

Marlin Schwartz’s petition before the Commission was to rezone ground from a public use district to a residential district. The property is on the north side of Brooklyn Street and 132 feet east of Main Street in the town of Syracuse.

Area Plan Director Dan Richard told the board that the tract should look familiar because the Commission previously had a hearing and a recommendation to the town board of Syracuse to rezone some of the tract from public use to commercial with some of it residential. Now Schwartz’s petition is to rezone all of it to residential. The commercial part of the property was going to be used for the processing of meat, but those plans fell through and the town rescinded that rezoning, Richard said. He said the tract of land was surrounded by residential.

“In this case, it’s to go from public use zone where the school was and put it into a residential classification,” Richard said.

Schwartz, who said he was a member of the limited liability corporation looking to develop the property, said they were requesting residential because “we want to build some nice apartments.” They hope to have 45 to 50 units.

Richard said if it were rezoned by the town of Syracuse, the next step would be for it to go before the Syracuse Board of Zoning Appeals “for a multi-family” request. The County Plan Commission’s decision is just a recommendation to the town board of Syracuse. “It’s not on the table at all today, but it opens the door for a potential request like that.”

Robert Long, who lives near the property, pointed out an area of the tract in question that gets flooded near his land. He wanted to know if that would be taken care of. Richard said he couldn’t answer that at this time, but Area Plan had heard was that all the units would be in existing buildings.

A map of the property in relation to the flood area was displayed and showed a floodway and flood zone. Absolutely no development can take place in the floodway, Richard said, and there are requirements for any development going into the flood zone. The Syracuse BZA would give water runoff and drainage a lot of scrutiny.

County Surveyor Mike Kissinger said since it was in a flood plain, they can’t just simply fill it in without a permit.

Long also expressed a concern about traffic with the increase in residences. Richard said the residential rezoning would potentially have less traffic than if it had stayed commercial.

Schwartz said the drainage concerns would have to be addressed through engineering during the process. He said they were keeping the structure that was there to create the residential units.

“What we’re proposing is, we want to use the classrooms that are there. Use the building as it is now. So other than on the outside adding aesthetics and more modern appeal … most of the classrooms are big enough, almost 900 square feet, where we can do two bedrooms without cutting lots of concrete, major type of reconstruction. We want to work with what’s there,” Schwartz stated.

County Commissioner and Plan Commission member Bob Conley said the petition was the “highest and best use” and he made a motion to approve the rezoning, which was approved. The Plan Commission’s recommendation will go before the Syracuse Town Board at 7 p.m. July 20.

The next request before the Plan Commission was represented by Jim Layne, Syracuse Redevelopment Commission member, and Jay Rigdon, town of Syracuse attorney.

“North of the town and into their Technical Park, which is actually in Elkhart County, we have a request before us today for a resolution they’re asking the Plan Commission to consider and pass regarding a TIF established within the Syracuse Technical Park up there,” Richard explained.

He said the main function of the Plan Commission when they look at something like the TIF district is to check and “make sure that the development that is proposed in the Technical Park matches up with the zoning in the comprehensive plan. In this case, I would say we’re in pretty good shape.”

Rigdon told the Commission, “Essentially, the idea is that we have a couple of taxpayers that are bringing new investments into the area and the way that we get seed money to continue to develop the Technology Park for future growth is we are able (to collect taxes) from those new investments.”

He said the Syracuse Redevelopment Commission already approved the resolution.

The Area Plan Commission unanimously approved the resolution.

The last item on the Commission’s agenda related to Syracuse was appointing a Commission member to the Syracuse BZA to replace Larry Coplen, who moved out of the town limits. Joe Cazier, who was absent from Wednesday’s meeting, was unanimously approved to replace Coplen.