Public access counselor: Carmel BZA violated open door law in finalizing variance denial for The GOAT tavern

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The owners of The GOAT restaurant and tavern have renewed a petition asking a Hamilton County judge to allow it to immediately reopen after Indiana’s public access counselor issued an advisory opinion July 2 stating that Carmel’s Board of Zoning Appeals violated Open Door Laws by finalizing its decision to deny a variance for the tavern outside of a public meeting.

The April 26 BZA denial of a use variance to allow the tavern to operate in a residentially zoned area effectively forced The GOAT to shut its doors. The denial was finalized when the BZA approved findings of fact to support its decision, which is required to occur within 45 days of the initial vote. BZA members individually voted on the findings of fact between May 12 and 14 through emails to their attorney, which The GOAT owner Kevin Paul claimed was a violation because it did not occur in a public meeting.

Public Access Counselor Luke Britt agreed.

“The BZA did not hold a public meeting on or between those dates, which bolsters Paul’s argument that the BZA — acting as a majority — adopted the findings without a public meeting,” Britt stated in his opinion.

Paul filed a petition May 4 asking a county judge to reverse the BZA’s April decision and allow it to reopen. He filed a renewed petition with the court July 2 in light of Britt’s opinion. The matter is under review in Hamilton County Superior Court 2.

The GOAT opened in a building at 220 2nd St. SW that previously housed Bub’s Cafe. The cafe had received a variance to operate in a residentially zoned area if it limited its hours to between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., but city officials said they inadvertently overlooked the variance when they approved plans for the tavern.

The tavern opened in July 2020, and soon after, city officials began receiving complaints from neighbors about loud noise late into the night, urination and vomiting on adjacent private property and other issues. In December 2020, the city ordered The GOAT to abide by the variance granted for Bub’s Cafe but reversed course two days later, allowing the tavern to operate past 2 p.m. if it reduced its hours, provided security to prevent many of the recurring problems and agreed to several other measures.

Complaints sharply decreased in the months before the BZA denied the use variance, but some BZA members said at the April 27 meeting that The GOAT had not done enough to prove it could be a good neighbor.

Current has reached out to the City of Carmel for comment.

 


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