By David Hazledine
MILFORD — Milford residents voiced concerns about a proposal to repurpose the former Lakeland Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center building, 505 W. Fourth St., into an apartment complex during the Monday, March 8, meeting of Milford Town Council.
The council voted to allow the property to be rezoned for residential use.
Council President Doug Ruch emphasized there would be later hearings on the apartment complex itself, and the council was only considering whether to rezone the property. For unknown reasons, the designation was never changed from agricultural use when it was built in 1980.
As Ruch noted, with the agriculture designation, “They could have a miniature farmette right in the center of town and you couldn’t do anything about it.”
Developer Dan Killinger received a letter of recommendation from the council in February. On March 3, he went before the Kosciusko County Area Plan Commission, which also recommended rezoning.
Killinger was not present on Monday; however, Gavin Troyer, owner of OA Construction Service, the company performing the renovation, and Shelly Tucker, owner of Assurance Properties and Realty, a management company, were on hand. Both companies are located in New Paris.
Troyer explained the “number of apartments is still in the air.” Architects had only completed a detailed “footprint” of the building a week earlier from which they will begin the design. Other than the possibility of adding parking spaces, he said, “the only change of the footprint of the building is the front entrance.”
The final drawing will be reviewed and released at the state level to ensure it follows state and local codes. “I’ve renovated several nursing homes,” said Troyer. “Mechanically, that building is very sound.”
Troyer expects roughly 21 apartments. Two will be 2,000 square feet with three bedrooms, while the remainder will range from 600 to 850 square feet one and two bedrooms, “depending on plumbing locations.” He later added, “I don’t anticipate four-person families.”
The apartments would include snow removal and lawn care, exterior landscaping, in-house laundromat for tenant-use only and a dog park, also for tenants. Such amenities will be geared toward “older folks” and younger, single tenants “making good money in a trailer factory.”
Clerk/Treasurer Tricia Gall read a letter from a relative of John Perry, who developed the nearby Perry addition, which summarized many of the residents’ concerns, chiefly the “large influx of people into the area,” where many children are “walking back and forth from the school and various sporting events.”
The letter also mentioned possible decreases in surrounding property values if the building is not “properly renovated, properly maintained and restrictions enforced for trash and noise control.”
The proposed dog park for renters also raised concerns. “We already have a dog issue,” said a resident of the Perry subdivision. Councilman Ken Long, who also lives in the proposed area, agreed. “I catch them all the time,” he said of free-roaming dogs.
Another concern was the renters themselves, with a neighboring homeowner expressing worries of “riff-raff” and “lower-income people” moving into the area. “Where’s the guarantee? If we don’t address those issues now it may be too late.”
Tucker explained there will be a process for screening applicants, which will include credit and background checks as well as a $50 application fee. She added she did not think Killinger is “looking at Section Eight housing.”
Tucker also said “dangerous breeds” of dogs would not be allowed.
“There is a huge need for one-and-two-bedroom apartments,” Tucker stated.
Long said he thought undesirable tenants would be likely be priced out of the units. “I know people want to live in Milford,” he said. “People who are investing this money want to be able to maintain the property so they get the return.”
Troyer said the dog park was mainly a “marketing tool,” aimed at older people who may have “lap dogs,” and would likely be one of the first things removed from the plans should they go over budget.
The lack of streetlights in the area was also a concern. Ruch responded he had reached out to NIPSCO but had yet to hear back.
Another resident worried about controlling the number of people living in the apartments. Tucker said, “I walk through every unit every few months.” She also plans on working in the building two days a week. Troyer commented, “We’re four or five miles away,” and this proximity would help with addressing concerns.
“A neighborhood association could make this constructive for everyone involved,” Ruch offered. “The longer an empty building sits empty the more deteriorated it gets,” he added.