By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission members Thursday received a preliminary update on just what the county may have in store for C.R. 17 now that the corridor is nearing completion.
County planner Mark Kanney provided the update Thursday, noting that he met with the County Plan Commission for a workshop last week where the group attempted to tentatively spell out what the county intends to do with the corridor as far as its progression and development moving forward.
“Now that C.R. 17 is open all the way to C.R. 38, and to C.R. 40 very soon, it’s pretty much intact, and we’re taking a look at what we can expect out there, and obviously any kind of infrastructure improvements that could stimulate a little bit of development, or at least the possibility,” Kanney said. “We’re looking at it from the standpoint of ‘What can we expect?’”
To begin with, Kanney noted that when the county purchased the right-of-way needed for the section of C.R. 17 between C.R. 18 and C.R. 38, it also purchased the access rights to all of the adjacent property.
“So you won’t see any driveways or any access points other than the established intersections,” Kanney said of that section’s future development. “It’s different than C.R. 18 north were we didn’t do that. C.R. 18 north was a long time ago, and everyone maintains their accessibility to that road.”
Due to the county’s ownership of the access rights along the roadway, Kanney noted that the County Board of Commissioners would have to sell strips of the land along the roadway in order to allow anyone to intersect.
“So it kind of slows down development from the standpoint of what we normally see as far as commercial (development),” Kanney said. “But it could be developed as commercial.”
Another potential hurdle for development noted by Kanney is the necessity for sewer connectivity, primarily due to the poor nature of the soil in some sections surrounding the roadway.
“There are certain areas down around C.R. 30 and C.R. 28 where the city of Goshen’s projected service area extends across the road,” Kanney said. “It would be very difficult to do any kind of development in that area without sewer (access). The soils are really tough. In fact, the city ran sewer out for the two subdivisions on C.R. 28 that are on the other side of C.R. 17 because the soils were so bad. So really from C.R. 18 south is kind of a limited development opportunity. It was designed to move traffic, and that’s what they established it to do.”
On the flip side, Kanney noted that the corridor’s outlook from C.R. 18 north to the state line is something entirely different, with a significantly higher potential for commercial development.
“That obviously is where all the development has occurred, in large part because of this road,” Kanney said. “Elkhart city and their sewer service a lot of this corridor. They in fact have annexed all the way up really from 120 South on the west side almost to the Interchange. Then further north we have Elkhart East, which is starting to make some real movement now, and hopefully that’s going to take off.”
Despite the high potential for development along the northern corridor, Kanney did point to some concerns he has with the significant number of existing curb cuts along the roadway and the potential that has to create problems as development continues. A curb cut is a small ramp built into the curb of a sidewalk to ease passage to the street, especially for bicyclists, pedestrians with baby carriages and the physically disabled.
“I counted, from C.R. 18 north to the county line, I believe 25 curb cuts on the east side, and 26 on the west side, that are not part of a regular intersection,” Kanney said. “I’m sure, as (the corridor) gets more and more successful, it’s something we need to deal with.”
As an example, Kanney pointed to the significant problems with curb cuts encountered along Cassopolis Street in Elkhart.
“A lot of Cassopolis’ problems were because we tried so hard to convert residential lots into commercial lots,” Kanney said. “Every one of them has a driveway, every one of them has not enough room, and over the years, its caused some real problems.”
In an effort to keep the same thing from happening to C.R. 17’s northern corridor, several members of the commission noted their interest in having Kanney and the county’s planning staff look into compiling a list of all the current curb cuts and determining which can be eliminated, and at what potential cost to the county.
“I think that’s a positive way to protect the road without legislating,” Kanney said.
As for the potential for any further extensions of the road once the most recent section from C.R. 38 to C.R. 40 is completed in late 2014, Kanney said that is very much up in the air at this point.
“I know they had originally intended to take it clear down to U.S. 6, and Kosciusko County got very interested in picking it up at 6 to take it to 30,” Kanney said, noting that those plans were eventually scrapped due to county funding issues. “I really don’t know yet whether we’ve hit the limit now, or whether they’re going to proceed on down. That’s kind of stuff we need to get our hands on.”