State urges Lebanon to annex 5,225 acres for LEAP district – Inside Indiana Business

  • A preliminary rendering shows a possible future layout for the LEAP Lebanon innovation and research district. (Rendering provided by the City of Lebanon)

  • Planners anticipate a mixed-use village along the Big 4 Trail in the LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District. (Rendering provided by the City of Lebanon)

The state’s plans for a huge research and innovation park northwest of Lebanon continue to take shape.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. and 43 Boone County landowners are petitioning the City of Lebanon to annex 5,225 acres of land for the LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District.

The area consists of 122 separate lots west of Interstate 65, bounded by County Road 500 West to the west, County Road 50 South to the south, and the Big 4 Trail to the north. Landowners of about 60 smaller parcels in the area do not want to be annexed or have not received offers, according to documents provided by the city.

Lebanese planning director Ben Bontrager also asked the council to approve a new LEAP development plan zoning for districts south of the Big 4 Trail, which would be used in place of a general industrial classification.

Bontrager said the city wants to flesh out land uses at LEAP, which are expected to include manufacturing of aerospace products and parts, pharmaceuticals, electric vehicles and semiconductors, and medical and diagnostic laboratories.

Areas north of the trail would be designated as single-family housing, which Bontrager said could change in the future.

The plan was presented to the Lebanese city council on Monday evening. The city’s planning commission narrowly approved the annexation proposal on November 21 by a vote of 5 to 4.

If the city council approves on December 12, it would be the second phase of the voluntary annexation of the LEAP site. Bontrager told the planning commission last week that LEAP will eventually occupy about 11,000 acres.

The city annexed 1,396 acres for LEAP in July, including about 600 acres east of Interstate 65, where Eli Lilly and co. plan to spend $2.1 billion to build two manufacturing facilities.

IEDC executive vice president David Rosenberg told the council on Monday that Lilly hopes to break ground on the first manufacturing facility in the first quarter of 2023.

He added that the state is “deep in talks” with two companies — one that makes electronic vehicle batteries and another that focuses on microelectronics — interested in building at LEAP.

Rosenberg said Indiana plans to build in Boone County because it must compete with other states for high-tech jobs now and in the future.

“We look at high-reward, high-growth companies, but what really sparked that was that we lost deal after deal because they went to other states that had site-ready initiatives,” Rosenberg said. “They were funded by the legislature. They went out to buy land, zone it, put utilities and roads there, so it was very important for the state to get in this game.”

A presentation by Rosenberg also gave a first glimpse of what LEAP might look like when complete.

A west-to-east overhead rendering showed areas titled “mega-sites” focused on industrial R&D, advanced manufacturing, a mixed-use village along the Big 4 Trail with housing and retail, office headquarters, and more advanced manufacturing would be east of I-65.

Residents opposed to the LEAP district also shared their concerns about the state’s plans in Boone County.

Michael Andreoli, an attorney representing the Boone County Preservation Group, whose members oppose the LEAP district, said his clients are concerned about the new zoning classification.

“The source of the objection is that this maps to a newly developed and newly implemented classification,” Andreoli said.

Other residents spoke about concerns they have about the loss of agricultural land, plans to pump millions of liters of water a day from the Wabash River, environmental issues and what this will mean for those who don’t want to sell their land and be annexed.

“This will change our lifestyle forever,” said Carrie Douglas. “This will change the landscape forever.”