The Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals’ hearing officer is set to review a request Nov. 28 for a special exception variance to allow for a group home in the Woodland Springs neighborhood.
Jennifer Piccione, an Illinois-based attorney, purchased the home at 44 Horseshoe Lane with the intention of renovating its interior to accommodate eight elderly residents. Two caretakers would be on-site daily to provide assistance with routine activities, such as bathing or preparing meals, and one caretaker would be on duty overnight. The caretakers will not provide medical or memory care.
“Our heart and our soul is to provide a home that is shared by eight like-minded individuals who come from the same neighborhoods and the same communities to share their meals together and share their life experiences together,” Piccione said. “I think it’s a terrible situation that a lot of people are in when they get to a certain age, and they have to choose between moving out of the area or moving in with a family member.”
As of Nov. 15, the BZA had received letters regarding the group home from at least three Woodland Springs residents, all in opposition to the project. The letters cite concerns about Horseshoe Lane becoming a “parking lot,” the group home’s effect on property values and the impact of a for-profit organization operating in a residential area.
Jean and Jon Rivers, whose home backs up to the proposed group home, emailed their concerns to Current, stating that they believe caretakers and family members visiting those living in the group homes would significantly increase traffic on Horseshoe Lane.
“(We are) not at all comfortable letting (our) two elementary-aged kids play in the backyard with so much traffic in and out of that home. There will be caretakers working different shifts, and with the employee turnover, we may never get to meet and know the people that are there,” the email stated. “This is all far too much traffic for this small neighborhood where many kids ride their bikes and play outside.”
The state of Indiana considers group homes to be residences, not commercial properties, even if they are owned by a for-profit business. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides federal protection for group homes, and local governments are limited in how they can regulate them.
The variance request won’t come before the Carmel City Council, but Councilor Adam Aasen, who represents the district that includes Horseshoe Lane, said he intends to express his opposition to the group home to the BZA. He said the group home “doesn’t really fit with the feel” of the neighborhood.
“I am very sympathetic to the housing needs of everyone, and assisted living facilities need to go somewhere, but I don’t believe this is the appropriate location,” Aasen said.
Piccione said she penned personal letters to neighbors living near the proposed group home site to alert them to the plans and explain her vision for the project. She said several Woodland Springs residents have reached out to her to share concerns that include increased traffic, frequent deliveries and the group home’s impact on surrounding property values.
Residents won’t have vehicles, Piccione said, and staff will be told to park in the two-car parking garage. Laundry will be done on-site, and the caretakers will purchase food at the grocery store, limiting the number of deliveries to the house. She said research shows that property values are typically brought down by unkept yards, homes in disrepair and criminal activity, which are issues the group home is not expected to exacerbate.
“We all have had those neighborhood nuisances, loud teenagers throwing parties, loud cars or motorcycles, barking dogs, the neighbor that doesn’t cut their lawn or shovel their sidewalk. (Our neighbors) don’t have to worry about any of those concerns with us,” she said. “The house will be professionally maintained and professionally landscaped. There won’t be any barking dogs or loud teenagers or loud cars. I think the neighbors are going to see that we’re going to be really, really good neighbors.”
If the special exception is approved, Piccione said she expects renovations to be complete in January 2023 and for the home to welcome its first residents the following month. She said she has received a great deal of interest in the home and expects a wait list to quickly form.