ALBION — After hearing five neighbors protest the idea, the Noble County Board of Zoning Appeals narrowly denied a special use variance which would have allowed horse racing and other cultural events at a farm just outside the Cromwell town limits.
The Gutierrez family, through its Hipodromos Los Pelones Horse Racing LLC, had requested a special exception to turn approximately 48 acres into a cultural venue, which would have had horse racing as one of its features.
The request involved three parcels of land with addresses of 10331 and 10355 W. C.R. 375N, Cromwell.
Hipodromos Los Pelones Horse Racing was planning to lease the 48 acres from the owners of those parcels.
The Noble County BZA was acting on behalf of the town of Cromwell, which does not have its own board of zoning appeals.
For the variance to be granted, the five board of zoning appeals members had to have a majority in agreement that the proposed usage met eight findings of fact. The BZA normally has five findings of fact, but three were added to meet Cromwell guidelines.
The special exception was denied on three of those eight facts.
Board members Patti Gatman, Chelsea Carmien and Sam Buckles voted negatively to the assertions that the proposal would:
• not alter the character of the district; and
• not subvert the general purposes served by the town of Cromwell Ordinance and will not, because of traffic generation, placement of outdoor lighting, noise production or hours of operation, materially and permanently injure other property or uses in the same zoning district and vicinity.
Members Gatman, Carmien and Nathan Meyer also found that the proposal did not meet the criteria of not substantially impacting property value in an adverse manner.
The other five findings of fact passed by 3-2 votes.
The neighbors who spoke against the project cited a long history of the property generating trash, reckless driving and loud noises when similar events were held at that location in the past.
Meyer said when he toured the land last week as part of a site evaluation, he “couldn’t walk 10 feet without finding a beer can.”
Neighbors cited property damage, including downed fences and mowed-over trees in the past.
The application asked the BZA to allow up to no more than eight cultural events per year, ending by 8 p.m. with a capacity of no more than 500 persons. The application said the events would include: racing of horses on a dirt track, showing horses, parades, food sharing, dancing and music.
The application said no weapons would be allowed on site. It also said there would be no alcohol sales on site.
During Wednesday evening’s meeting, Hipodromos Los Pelones Horse Racing attorney Robert Kruger said that there would be no alcohol permitted on site at all. He also offered a variety of concessions to the proposal, including:
• shortening the event end times to 7 p.m. when sun fall was an issue in April, May, September and October;
• allowing for a 1-year probationary period, with his clients needing to reapply next year;
• limiting the number of events to six the first year;
• limiting the number of attendees to 250 during the probationary period; and.
• stipulating that a veterinarian would be on hand to insure the health of the horses.
Most of those provisions were included in the final proposal decided by the BZA.
Kruger said the horse racing would not be sanctioned — or overseen — by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission since there would be no organized betting for the events.
The proposal called for the horses to race down a 300-yard straightaway, before curving away on a 150-yard stretch for a cool down.
“It’s about Hispanic cultural events and entertainment,” Kruger said.
Noble County Sheriff Max Weber also spoke against the proposal, citing numerous criminal investigations which had been generated by activities at the property in the past when horse racing events were held.
“I’m not in favor of this whatsoever,” Weber told the BZA.