Despite decision, Casey’s General Store may have soured on Carlisle

The path has officially been cleared for a Casey’s General Store to build in Carlisle, but it’s not clear if company officials are still interested after a dispute over the land that resulted in a court order.

The Carlisle Planning Commission on Thursday obeyed a Warren County Common Pleas Court’s order and unanimously approved a conditional use permit that was denied after a 3-3 vote last year. That would allow the Casey’s project to move forward.

Charles (Craig) Harris of Carlisle had agreed to sell a commercial property where the former Pizza Hotline was located on Central Avenue to Casey’s General Store for a new $4.5 million, 10-pump gas station/convenience store. However, a group of residents opposed the request.

After two hearings, the planning commission was split at 3-3, and that tie vote resulted in a denial, because four votes were needed for approval. At that time, there was one vacant seat on the commission.

Harris and his wife filed an appeal June 29, 2018 with the common pleas court against the May 3 planning commission’s decision. On April 29, Magistrate Andrew Hasselbach reversed the Planning Commission’s decision and ordered it to approve the conditional use permit.

In his decision, Hasselbach said, “The Planning Commission held public hearings on the application March 1 and April 5, 2018, at which time residents voiced their concerns on a number of matters including hours of operation, noise, odors, potential contamination of well water, health risks, property values, and the effect the proposed use might have on other businesses. These public comments were matters of opinion. The residents presented no substantive evidence.”

On May 16, Judge Timothy Tepe signed the permanent judgment order on Hasselbach’s decision.

Harris said Casey’s officials are aware of the court’s order but they have not told him if they are willing to revisit opening a store/gas station in Carlisle.

“It’s up in the air,” he said. “It’s been interesting and quite a learning experience for me.”

At Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, Village Manager Julie Duffy told the members, some of whom were not on the commission at the time of the vote, that they had to comply with the court order. The agenda did not allow any public comment time.

“The court said that we did not follow our process,” Duffy said. “Process matters in my opinion.”

She said conditional use permit for that property located at 767 Central Ave. would be valid for one year.

“I find it unusual for a court to reverse this and tell us how to vote,” said Martin Neal, a newly appointed planning commission member.

“I have no intention of fighting a court order.”

Chairman Robert Hurt said, “I was not surprised (about the court decision), not one bit. The three denial comments weren’t really valid.”

Hurt said he did not know if Casey’s will come back but the decision will open the door for other businesses.

MORE: Carlisle delays decision on controversial gas station

Harris, the broker of Valley Real Estate in Carlisle, said the property in question was the only commercial property he owns and wanted to sell it.

A message seeking comment was left for a representative from Casey’s General Store’s corporate offices in Ankeny, Iowa.

“I’m happy the court overturned it,” Harris said. “I felt that was the right decision.”

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