LEBANON, Ind. — City councilors in Lebanon heard more testimony from both supporters and opposition to a planned development for a new Eli Lilly facility within newly annexed land by the city.
The dispute between city leaders, developers for Eli Lilly, and local residents is access; in particular access to the rest of the county and their land that would be impacted by the construction and completion of the facility.
The facility is slated to be built on 600 acres of land directly north of Lebanon proper and just south of State Road 47, right on top of County Road 300 North. In fact, part of the road, also known as Witt Road, would need to be vacated in order for the project to proceed.
That means closing a section of the road altogether and that has farmers and people who live in the surrounding areas of the planned facility upset.
“If you shut down 300, how is that going to work to get an ambulance out there,” said one man during public comment.
“The construction of the Lilly buildings and the employment it will bring to the area will put our local farmers at risk,” said another woman.
“You’re just limiting how we can even get through, or get from one side of the county to the other,” another man said.
Ben Bontrager, the Lebanon city planner, disagrees that residents in the surrounding areas will not have access to other their land or other parts of the county. He laid out maps and charts during a presentation to city councilors.
“Are we making sure that there is still proper access to those areas on both of those road segments? And we determined that yes we would be,” Bontrager said. “There’s already been one traffic study done and several more being done.”
City leaders had been in a tentative agreement with the grassroots organization the Preservation Group over vacating part of CR 300. But, after seeing the proposed alternative route laid out by Lilly developers the organization’s leader, Jim Love, said “we are back to square one.”
There was also concern from residents about who will be paying for the road reconstruction that would come along with the project. Bontrager insisted that as part of the incentive package being offered by the state to build in Lebanon, those costs would be covered and that the city would not be on the hook.
Lebanon city councilors and Mayor Matt Gentry plan to hold two more public meetings to cover the topic on Feb. 13 and Feb. 21. A final vote on whether to proceed with the plan will happen on the latter date.