A highly controversial vote Monday night will see Lebanon nearly double the size of its city limits.
The Lebanon City Council voted 5-1 to annex thousands of acres of land north of the city in order to facilitate a brand new business park called the LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District.
It’s a project that will be funded by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to bring in several high-tech businesses to set up shop in Indiana.
“LEAP stands for ‘limitless exploration/advanced pace,” the city said in a July news release, “as the state plans to use the rural Boone County site to attract companies in the advanced manufacturing, research and development, life sciences, technology, and microelectronics and semiconductor industries.”
However, the concept is getting mixed reviews in the county. The majority of public comment before Monday night’s vote was against the project. Residents both within Lebanon proper and in the areas set to be annexed voiced several concerns about increased traffic on some county roads, water access, and how the project will be paid for.
“How much is this going to cost taxpayers at the end of the day,” asked Britt Reese. “This brings me to my second question, where is this money coming from?”
“(Eli) Lilly is not going to let people through Whitt Road,” added Jim Love, a farmer with Boone County Preservation. “So, when you think about that we are now going to have a four-and-a-half-mile wide swath of Boone County that has just two north-south arteries in it. Two. We had three, which is barely enough!”
“The decisions you are making today is all about growing Lebanon, not what it’s going to do to the county,” said Boone County Commissioner Don Lawson, who said his big concern is the project’s impact on the county’s water supply.
“The more of these businesses you put in the lower that aquifer is going to be,” Lawson said. “You need to find another source. If you put these buildings in they are going to use millions and millions of gallons of water and take out prime farmland. That’s a disgrace to this county.”
Supporters, like Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry (R) said the benefits of the project are too good to pass up.
“Frankly it provides great opportunities for people in town,” said Gentry. “Next-gen technologies for people, for things we use every single day. And then provides the ability from a revenue standpoint with some of these investments being made in the community.”