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Fishers council narrowly approves Cumberland Cottages, 5-4

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The Fishers City Council narrowly approved a request to rezone a 1.82 acre of land at the southwest corner of Cumberland Road and 141st Street to allow for the development of 11 units by HAND, Inc. The council approved the request with a 5-4 vote at its February meeting.

The approval will allow HAND to construct 11 detached units that range from two to three bedrooms. The units are geared toward single parents but are open to anyone who qualifies income-wise, as it is an affordable housing project. Each unit is approximately 1,200 square feet and 1.5 stories. The units will have front porches facing a central green to add to the communal feel of the project.

Council members said that they received many comments about the project, both in favor of and against. The comments in opposition of the project mostly expressed concerns regarding the high density of the project as well as traffic concerns. The Fishers Plan Commission sent the project to the council with an unfavorable recommendation.

HAND Executive Director Andrea Davis said affordable housing is needed in Hamilton County, and although the county is considered the most affluent in the state, it is home to three dozen food pantries. Davis also shared statistics that 48 percent of the Hamilton County workforce is employed in the seven lowest wage industries, many of which also are the fastest growing, and that 72 percent of those working in Hamilton County are burdened by the cost of living there.

Prior to the council voting, each member had the opportunity to comment on the project.

Council member Jocelyn Vare said HAND has a proven track record in establishing quality affordable housing developments.

“They are taking on this community need without a desire to make a dime and each member of this body, myself included, has approved apartment projects in our city far more dense with far more units and far more impact on traffic and by a developer who may not be motivated to fill a community need but to make a profit,” Vare said. “I do respect the Fishers residents who voiced concerns about property values and traffic and density but those concerns, as Andrea shared, are not supported by facts. We must listen, but we must also be leaders, which means making decisions based on facts alone.”

Council member John Weingardt said he was in favor of the project, just not in the location it was proposed.

“I don’t like that corner there. I think we need to help Andrea find another location for this,” Weingardt said. “I see how people drive through (that roundabout). My son had a car accident there because a bunch of people were speeding through that roundabout. And, we need to reach out to our residents and say ‘is affordable housing something that’s meaningful to us?’ People say ‘not in my backyard’ but we need to find a way to say ‘how can we have it in our backyard?’”

Council member Brad DeReamer spoke in favor of the project.
“One of the mayor’s mottos for Fishers is work in Fishers, live in Fishers, play in Fishers,” DeReamer said. “Over 40 percent of our own city employees cannot afford to live in Fishers. There’s a tremendous need for affordable housing so you can work here, live here and play here, and this is a project that’s needed and we need many, many more of these projects.”

Council president Selina Stoller voted against the project.

“We need to look at this as a community and embrace the discussion as to how we want to move forward,” she said. “I’m not quite comfortable with the project yet.”

Council members Stoller, Weingardt, Pete Peterson and Todd Zimmerman voted against the rezone request for the project. Council members David George, Coble, Sam DeLong, DeReamer and Vare voted in favor of the rezone request.

After the vote was taken, several of the councilors who voted no still extended a “congratulations” to HAND and Davis.

“I want to say congratulations, but I would ask can we please talk about the safety issue? I really want this to succeed, and I want this to be a safe project, and you can have my support if we fix this,” Zimmerman said.

For more, visit fishers.in.us.


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