Lucas Estate seeks variance for weddings, other events

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The Lucas Estate, a large property in Carmel once called the Hilbert Mansion, is seeking a variance to be able to use the property for semi-public events such as weddings, receptions, fundraising, recognition ceremonies and more.

The Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals will meet to discuss the variance at 6 p.m. Aug. 28 in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

The property, purchased by Forrest and Charlotte Lucas of the Lucas Oil Company in 2010, has hosted such events in the past, but the owners claim they have mostly hosted private charity events. According to the application, corporate events are usually local partners and the Lucas family is in attendance at nearly event. There are currently 30 to 50 events a year, and they claim they have no intention to increase event activity. Events could range from 20 to 500 guests.

“The Lucas Estate is not an avenue to make money,” the petitioner application reads. “The estate cannot be hired out by anyone simply by paying for a certain fee. This is not a traditional, commercial banquet facility.”

The petitioner claims they do not plan on building any additional event spaces.

The main house, at 1143 W. 116th St., has five bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and several other rooms spread out over four floors. The Lucas family bought Stephen Hilbert’s $35 million Carmel estate at auction for $3 million after it sat on the market for five years. It had five buildings on more than 33 acres. In 2016, the Lucas Family expanded their property by purchasing the adjacent 40-acre property of Bob Irsay, late owner of the Indianapolis Colts. This variance would encompass both properties as the Lucas Estate.

The Lucas Oil name is prominently known in Indianapolis for its sponsorship of motor racing and its naming rights for Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Indianapolis Colts play.

Chuck Lazzara, owner of Ritz Charles and developer of a new mixed-used project in the Carmel Arts & Design District, expressed concerns in a letter.

“We do not object to this type of competition,” he writes. “(We) do object to variance in creation of profit oriented business in a residential zoned neighborhood. As a previous caterer for events at the Hilbert Estate, every event there was a charitable donation or a personal event for the Hilberts, never was there a for profit event held at the Hilbert estate … Zoning has been created in the City of Carmel allowing business to compete on equal footing, abide by all laws governing such, pay a much higher property tax, market endeavors according to those requirements that fit in their application such as, parking, fire safety, health permitting, ABC permitting, state sales tax requirements and city tax, ingress, egress to and from the commercial site. Properly zoned businesses also hire and train local employees and pay all mandated benefits.”

A variance is different from a rezone because the Lucas Estate would still be considered a residential property and pay residential property taxes.

Nearby neighbors at Estancia Way wrote a letter with concerns about amplified sound levels at events. They say they are neither for nor against the variance, just raising questions.

Jill Meisenheimer and Dee Fox, representatives of the group Carmel Citizens for Responsible Zoning, wrote a letter objecting to the variance. They would ask that at the very least the use be restricted to “only charitable and other non-profit events and the owner’s personal events.” They claim that the petitioner’s statements are not binding.

“We believe that petitioner statements of intent have little meaning, unless they are commitments,” they write.

Representatives from the Lucas Estate did not respond to a request for comment.


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