Carmel considering complete replacement of zoning map


The City of Carmel is working on a replacement for its zoning ordinance and map. After 18 months of reviewing the zoning classifications, city planners are starting from scratch with a Unified Development Ordinance that is making its way through the Carmel Plan Commission.

Some of the proposed changes are meant to streamline the process, clean up inconsistencies and make language more clear. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard calls it the “5-Minute Code” because the goal is to make it possible for anyone — not only attorneys — to find what they need in less than five minutes.

“It’s going to be a lot easier to read and (be more) consistent,” he said. “It’ll be easier to understand.”

But there also are some proposed strategic changes, including the introduction of three new zoning districts: Urban Residential, Urban Core and Office Core. The zoning districts would follow the “mixed-use” trends in Carmel’s redevelopment areas such as Midtown, the Carmel City Center and the Carmel Arts & Design District. Brainard said it helps create dense properties with multi-story buildings that combine retail, office and residential units.

“It’s the way Western Europe was built for centuries,” he said.

As a result, the U.S. 31 Corridor Overlay Zone has also been removed and will likely be replaced primarily with the new Office Core District. The Old Meridian District is gone, too, and will likely be replaced with the new Urban Residential and Urban Core districts. Brainard said the zoning classifications fit what is already happening in those areas, so the feel won’t change.

Agricultural and manufacturing districts have been removed from the new plan. Brainard said that doesn’t mean the end of those types of businesses but acknowledged there are very few already in the city limits.

If the new zoning map is approved, Brainard said there might be fewer planned unit developments, leading to fewer projects needing to go before the plan commission or city council.

“It also leaves less control for the city,” he said.

Brainard emphasized that this does not change the city’s master plan for design, although he said the master plan is only a guiding document. The actual zoning ordinance is being changed.

A public hearing on the changes will be held at the April 18 Carmel Plan Commission meeting. Interested residents can find an overview and a copy of the proposed ordinance at