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Vocal group of Boone County residents against proposed development project

Residents at Boone County Fairgrounds
Posted at 6:36 AM, Oct 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-11 15:27:09-04

BOONE COUNTY — Editor's Note: Our original titled stated a majority of Boone County residents appeared to be against the proposed development. There is no way for us to know for sure what the exact numbers are, majority versus minority, of where people stand on the project. We changed our headline to better reflect this position.

On Monday night, a meeting was held at the Boone County Fairgrounds where the group updated the community on what they had learned about the proposed research and innovation park which has been called the Lebanon Innovation and Research District, LEAP for short. Eli Lilly is the only company confirmed to be part of the development.

Boone County Preservation Group, formed in response to the State of Indiana wanting to build a large development north of Lebanon off I-65, says it's striving to "preserve farmland and natural resources" while also supporting "responsible land development in Boone County."

"We as Boone county residents are not against development. We're not against industry," said Kim Love, a member of Boone County Preservation Group. However, Love says she and many others are against big industries coming in and changing their way of life. She and her family have refused a buyout.

"There are things that mean more than money. There are things like the fact that I want my child, who's farming our farm, to teach his children how farming is done," Love said.

WRTV first reported on this proposed project in March. At that time, it was confirmed the Indiana Economic Development Corporation had been talking to land owners for months, trying to purchase around 3,000 to 7,000 acres of land. We're waiting to hear back from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation on how much land has been bought.

Kathy Richards, a fifth-generation Boone County resident, is hopeful the project will not move forward.

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"They need to think about what they're doing to this farming community because it is a farming community. It's a small-town feel and it will not be anymore," Richards said. "My dad always said they don't make any more farmland so it really hurts my family to see them take all the farmland to the factories."

Richards says the proposed Eli Lilly facility will be a half mile away from her front door off County Road 300 N. What's even more concerning for Richards is the fact a surveyor was on her property and went all the way to her backyard, a sign that perhaps a proposed road would go straight through their home.

"That's the problem. We don't know anything. We feel left in the dark," Richards said. "This was supposed to be our forever home. Our son was raised here. We don't want to leave, but we don't want to have a four-lane road in our front yard."

Richards says they've been offered what appears to be a large sum of money on the surface, but for what she and her husband have built over the last 32 years, they could not buy or build something comparable.

Love thinks IEDC should consider building in spots around the state that are currently blighted.

"There are so many plants that have been abandoned over time. Level them and reuse the land. You can do it in Indianapolis, Kokomo, Gary," Love said.

At this point, this is all proposed. Boone County Commissioners would have to approve zoning changes. We've reached out to them to see what they're going to consider.