Developer AZR Haver is proposing four townhomes on the southeast corner of Main Street and Sherman Drive, but many residents of the adjacent Johnson Addition neighborhood are opposed to the plan, telling the Carmel Plan Commission Aug. 20 they are concerned about the project changing the character of the area and leading to subsequent proposals that could do the same.
The two-story mid-century modern townhomes are proposed on .43 acres currently home to a single-family dwelling. Developers are requesting a rezone to urban residential zoning – which allows townhomes – to accommodate the project, which they say will add a missing option to the variety of home styles available in Carmel.
Chris Engel, an attorney representing the developer, said because the project faces Main Street it’s an appropriate fit for the area.
“If the proposed project were to be located in the interior of the Johnson Addition, the consideration of the project would be much different, but a clear distinction can be made based on the location of this property,” Engel said.
This is not the first time Johnson Addition homeowners have been concerned about redevelopment affecting the neighborhood, which was built in the 1950s. In 2014 homeowners attempted to designate the neighborhood as a conservation district, which would have made it more difficult for major redevelopment to occur. The city council narrowly approved the designation, but Mayor Jim Brainard vetoed it. The council did not vote to override his veto.
“This isn’t just our homes,” said Jane Seves, who lives near the proposed townhomes. “We put our heart into this, and I’m concerned that people can come in and make money on our discomfort.”
Johnson Addition offers some of Carmel’s most affordable homes. Many residents are worried about redevelopment diminishing the already-shrinking inventory of affordable homes, as other older neighborhoods nearby have recently seen large, luxury homes replace aging ones.
“We’re not in need of a townhome product in downtown Carmel,” said Commissioner Carrie Holle, a realtor who said townhomes in Carmel typically spend 60 days on the market. “What we’re more in need of in downtown Carmel is something that’s affordable. It’s hard to get anything right now in much under $600,000 in downtown Carmel.”
Commissioner John Adams said he’s concerned a rezone could have a negative impact on surrounding homes.
“I don’t see a compelling reason to change the zoning,” he said. “Just because there are other parcels that are zoned differently (nearby) is not a good reason to take a small parcel and rezone it.”
The commission’s residential committee will further discuss the project and rezoning request at its 6 p.m. meeting Sept. 3 at Carmel City Hall.