The Carmel Plan Commission voted to send a proposed expansion of the Jackson’s Grant neighborhood to the Carmel City Council with an unfavorable recommendation.
The 5-4 vote at the June 16 virtual meeting contradicted a 3-1 favorable recommendation of the project from the commission’s commercial committee. The city council will have the final say on the proposal.
Republic Development requested a rezone of 20 acres on the northwest corner of 116th Street and Springmill Road for a mixed-use development that would include single-family homes, townhomes and a commercial node.
The commission received more than 100 letters from nearby residents for and against the project. Many of those not in favor of the rezoning stated they were concerned about increased traffic, reduced property values, density and breaking a commitment not to allow commercial development west of Springmill Road.
Carmel Director of Community Services Mike Hollibaugh said the city does not have an ordinance prohibiting commercial development west of Springmill Road, although a resolution, which is nonbinding, was passed nearly 30 years ago to that effect. When city leaders updated the comprehensive plan they discussed the resolution and decided to leave it out, he said.
“Now the policies are much more encouraging of small commercial nodes and walkable neighborhood nodes and a project just like this,” Hollibaugh said.
Commissioner Alan Potasnik voted against the project. With The Bridges commercial development across the street and an uncertain economic future caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, he doesn’t believe a commercial use is appropriate for the site.
“We have enough commercial there,” he said. “There is no need to have any more commercial in this area.”
Commission President Brad Grabow voted to send the project to the council with an unfavorable recommendation because he wants to see the developer add language that will help ensure the commercial node features shops and restaurants to benefit the neighborhood rather than general office space or retailers that cater to a broader base.
“I would like to see the petitioner agree to a minimum percentage of commercial that would restrict retail uses to hold their feet to the fire for the concepts they have talked about, (such as an) ice cream shop, coffee shop or sandwich place, things that are neighborhood gathering attractions,” Grabow said.
Officials from Republic indicated they would add those commitments in writing before the city council votes on the issue.