Elkhart County Administration Building stock photo

GOSHEN — Over a neighbor’s objections, a Middlebury company took a couple steps forward as part of its hopes to grow into a large, local auction house.

The Elkhart County commissioners approved requests to rezone two pieces of land following lengthy discussions Monday on plans by Bright Star Realty and Auctions.

Loren Beachy, from Bright Star and its land-holding company LEJN LLC, argued for the changes. In one proposal, he sought a light manufacturing designation for an agricultural parcel along Ind. 13, north of C.R. 12. The other proposal called for rezoning another site from a planned business development to light manufacturing along Ind. 13 south of C.R. 12. Both parcels are along the corridor heading into Middlebury’s north side.

Jason Auvil, zoning administrator with the Elkhart County Planning and Development Department, explained the intent in the first request was to align that parcel with other surrounding zones. The second request seeks to develop the land for storing equipment and vehicles, he said.

The plans were met with opposition by a neighbor, living close to the site of the first request north of C.R. 12. She expressed aesthetics concerns that auctions were creating eyesores with collections of equipment at the site, that debris collected over onto parts of her property from a fence row, and about traffic in the area for the auctions. She also stated an allegation as a concern that she believes Bright Star might not be adhering to all the regulations it should be following.

Beachy addressed the neighbor’s concerns, including pointing out his company is working with Middlebury town leaders to improve new fencing and install landscaping. He also presented a letter from the town that shows support for the company.

Beachy told the commissioners the company would like to eventually grow into a 40-acre auction facility in that industrial corridor north of Middlebury. Bright Star currently auctions property and agriculture equipment, according to its website. Beachy pointed out the company attracts buyers to the area from several different states and countries.

The commissioners approved both rezoning proposals. The first vote, on the property north of C.R. 12, aligned with the Elkhart County Plan Commission’s decision last month to recommend the change. The second vote, for the site south of C.R. 12, went against the commission’s recommendation to deny the rezoning.

OTHER BUSINESS

The commissioners addressed several other issues during their meeting Monday.

In a vote, they approved a request to update a residential development plan and allow for subdividing a plot in the 62000 block of C.R. 43, west of Goshen. Auvil explained the property owner wants to build a second house on the lot.

The commissioners also voted 2–1 to approve an ordinance to set in motion the creation of a fund to receive the county’s allotment of money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. By law, the funds would be limited to expenses related to local COVID-19 relief, Craig Buche, county attorney, explained.

The county is expected to receive about $40 million through the $1.9 trillion relief bill Congress passed in early March.

Commissioner Brad Rogers cast the opposing vote on the ordinance.

Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrose@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 240316. Follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.

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