LEBANON, Ind. — The Lebanon City Council approved zoning reclassification plans for a massive research and innovation park just north of downtown Monday night.
“These are dramatic levels of investment,” Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry said Tuesday. “At the end of this, Eli Lilly may be one of the smaller users in this based on some of the leads we have.”
Among the leads for more corporate residents in Boone County’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation District is a $50 billion semiconductor plant — a taxpaying entity so large Gentry says it could help the state solve a water problem beyond just Lebanon.
“They project that we’ll be out of water by 2050,” he said. “It’s not so far away that, if we’re growing at this pace … Water is critical.”
Gentry added that the state is thinking about how it can bring in more water to operate the plant and meet the rest of central Indiana’s needs.
Now that the city has approved an ordinance establishing the Planned Unit Development district, Gentry said it’s taken an important step toward attracting more businesses.
“It places a lot of protections for the residents that live out there currently that want to stay and balances that out with, ‘What do these economies and different companies need that they want to make these investments out there as well?'” Gentry said.
Despite Gentry’s upbeat outlook, some people living in or around the 9,000 acres proposed for the project oppose it.
“This was going to be our retirement home,” resident Brian Daggy said. “We intend it to be one. We don’t know where we stand on that.”
Daggy is part of the Boone County Heritage Preservation group, which is focuses on slowing development down.
“There may be enough water to do this, but nobody knows what the long term impact is,” Daggy said. “I sometimes think our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren are going to wonder how foolish we were to pave over prime farm ground when there’s other areas available.”
Gentry foresees different needs for future generations — plus the benefits of housing major pharmaceutical and technology companies. He said there could come a day where residents enjoy improved quality of life and reduced — or even zero — property taxes as a result of the project.
“Not to mention the types of jobs this will create for people, what this will do for their kids and grandkids filling these jobs,” Gentry said. “These are six-figure jobs out here. When looking at it from a city perspective, it’s a no-brainer for us.”
He also says the foundation for Eli Lilly’s facility could be set this winter. Time will tell which other investors may follow.
A group of residents previously filed a complaint against Lebanon claiming the city didn’t follow certain annexation procedures. The mayor said the city has done everything by the book. He added that the ordinance approved Monday makes the case moot.