Westfield Advisory Plan Commission tightens reins on proposed equestrian-themed development

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A majority of Westfield Advisory Plan Commission members pushed back against H&H Stables’ proposal at its June 6 meeting.

H&H Stables is requesting an amendment to the Towne Road Crossing planned unit development to permit an equestrian exhibition facility and equestrian-themed custom neighborhood. The group wants to develop 69 acres south of Ind. 32, east of Little Eagle Creek and adjacent to the Midland Trace Trail corridor. If approved, the project would include a 120,000-square-foot facility with four arenas, stabling capacity for up to 140 horses, equestrian-focused retail, dining and 25 custom homes. Thirty-four acres would be designated for pasture.

The proposal received verbal support from Westfield City Council members and other city officials during its May 9 introduction to the council, but several APC members expressed concern about parts of the proposal.

“When I first heard about this, I was obviously excited about it because we also have horses,” APC member Ginny Kelleher said. “I have a lot of concerns about this.”

Kelleher noted that the city’s comprehensive plan for the rural southwest area of Westfield identified a need for conservation subdivisions, whereby at least half of a development is dedicated to open space. Kelleher said H&H Stables’ proposal didn’t meet the comprehensive plan’s vision. She also noted that, besides horse shows, H&H Stables wants to host other events, such as dog shows or beach volleyball competitions.

“Most of those should be at Grand Park, not down here,” she said. “Agriculturally themed things in this area might be appropriate, but other things that are corporate events or dog shows or beach volleyball should be at Grand Park. In fact, we have a beach volleyball facility being proposed up there. I would hate to take business away from that business we have supported.”

Kelleher said equestrian communities are difficult to maintain because of expenses.

“Village Farms was going to be an equestrian community with bridal paths through that, and most of those have been absorbed by residential lots because the equestrian community really didn’t survive,” she said.

APC member Kristen Burkman voiced similar concerns, specifically about preserving the integrity of the rural southwest area.

“It is important this area gets preserved in that way,” Burkman said. “It’s a special part of our community. Any development we put out there needs to be in context with that area.”

Land use professional Jon Dobosiewicz represented petitioner Chad Hughes at the meeting. He said a conservation subdivision hasn’t been approved in the 15 years since the planned unit development was created because a financially viable opportunity hasn’t arisen.

“We have what we believe to be a great opportunity,” he said. “We received support from council members and surrounding neighbors. They view this as a great alternative for real estate rather than 70 homes on the same parcel.”

Kelleher also expressed concern about a lack of planning for manure management.

APC member Cindy Spoljaric, who also serves on the city council, said was initially excited about the project but had concerns about its placement near the Midland Trace Trail and Little Eagle Creek.

“When you look at the package is when it becomes a concern for me,” she said.

APC member Mike Johns, who also serves on the council, said he expects H&H Stables wouldn’t have much support if it returned to council. He requested a copy of the proposal’s business plan.

“I’m concerned this can’t work from a business perspective,” Johns said. “At the end of the day, it worries me. I think it’s a great concept. I would like to see it someplace else in Westfield. But even then, I would like to see a business plan.”

APC member Victor McCarty supported the proposal.

“If not here, then where would we want to see something like this? Because I know this is something our community would love to see,” McCarty said. “I think seeing a business plan is outside the purview of anyone who makes decisions up here. As a council, too, I don’t think that is a purview of something that should go into decision making. That’s up to the private sector. If they think it’s something that could be successful, it is up to them to make it successful.”

The APC did not vote on the project but held a public hearing. One person spoke. Linda Naas, a Westfield resident and member of the Westfield Redevelopment Commission, expressed concern about the space available for the horses.

“As I’ve organized horse shows, started horse shows and done training clinics, we’ve traveled all over this country and competed with all levels of people. Even if they had the whole 214 acres (of the planned unit development), it is not enough space to do what they want to do,” Naas said.

The proposal will return to the APC for a vote at a future meeting. For more, visit westfield.in.gov.


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