The Warrick County Board of Commissioners in April voted to incorporate Victoria Woods, a nearly 595-acre wooded area east of Victoria National Golf Club. But you could say the idea was sparked decades ago.
Jordan Aigner’s grandfather once operated a coal shovel on this stretch of land when it was a strip mine. The Aigner family then owned some of the property through the mid-1990s, when they sold it to the developers of Victoria National. In the time since, Boonville, Indiana-based Aigner Construction, Inc. — led by Aigner’s father, Jerry — developed in and around Warrick County, all the while eying the woods east of the golf club.
“With its geography, trail connectivity, and proximity to Friedman Park, it has its own sense of place, more than a typical development,” says Aigner, a Professional Engineer and Project Engineer at Aigner Construction, Inc. “There were high, undulating peaks 60-100 feet tall. It felt like parts of North Carolina in the corn country of Indiana.”
Development potential was constrained, though, because the most immediate governing board — in this case, Warrick County — must enforce the same design standards for all properties.
“It doesn’t really let you keep some of those beautiful areas because you have to level it off,” Aigner says. “But, you can create your own design standards by starting your own municipality.”
Enter Victoria Woods. When another landowner dropped the project, Aigner Construction bought back nearly 600 acres to keep it moving.
Indiana Code 36-5-1-2 governs the requirements to incorporate a town. Petitioners must attest that the space will be used for “commercial, industrial, residential, or similar purposes,” is “reasonably compact and contiguous” with enough room for growth, and is in the best interests of the area’s citizens. An incorporation study must be completed detailing the kinds of services to be offered to citizens, and at least 10 percent of landowners within the territory must sign off on the petition.
To gain support for this vision, “You have to think way ahead,” Aigner says. “You have to tell people that you want to try to incorporate. When we were selling lots, we put it into our deeds and covenants that this is what we’re planning to do.”
The Aigners countered initial skepticism with community engagement.
“Just like any new idea, people are uncertain,” Aigner says. “You have to educate all parties affected: townships, public safety officials, county government. We started with the area planning commission, talked to small towns, educated the surrounding municipal entities and taxing bodies. We did a financial study on the tax impact for us and others in the county, and then we supported a third-party study to check our own numbers. That took longer, but it was well worth it.”
“The city of Boonville is the closest municipality and really could have killed it from the beginning. But we talked to them, and they thought it was a good idea,” he adds. “They’re going to work together on water and sewer service, and that allowed us to move forward.”
Up next is the November general election, in which Victoria Woods’ dozen or so residents will elect their three-member town council, giving them more voice in their own utility contracts and tax rates. From there, Aigner Construction will begin developing the community’s own design standards regarding lot size, street width, and other specifications — standards that residents themselves will play an active role in shaping. Meanwhile, Aigner Construction hopes to develop 300-400 home sites in Victoria Woods over 10-15 years.
“This was something my father wanted to do then, and it’s really special to return to the very same property we had in the mid-’90s,” Aigner says.