Impasse over Crown Hill

July 17, 2007
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Four months have passed since neighborhood pressure helped defeat a second proposal to develop 70 acres at the north end of Crown Hill Cemetery.Crown Hill Marker A partnership of environmental groups including Indy Parks, Central Indiana Land Trust and Indiana Department of Natural Resources want to buy the mostly wooded land. But so far, their efforts to put it under contract have been rebuffed. Property Lines has learned some of the details of their offer: The group would pay the cemetery the same amount called for in the developer's contract, $5.6 million, provided the price is supported by an appraisal. And the cemetery would have to allow 18 months for fundraising before the deal closes. The groups don't want to begin raising money until they have some comfort they could actually deliver the property, while the cemetery doesn't want to pull the land off the market without a financial commitment. "We're looking for some strong indication there is the financial support," said Crown Hill CEO Keith Norwalk. Jay Peacock, chairman of the cemetery's Board of Managers, said discussion of the land's future is "back to square one."
  • I'm shocked that the environmental groups don't have the financial backing they said they had when the recent zoning case was swamped. Shocked!
  • You'd think all those Really Important People who spoke out against development of the 70 acres could at least make a substantial downpayment on a contract to buy.

    Well, maybe not since they got their property tax bills...
  • I say develop the land and tax the users. It's currently not taxed along with all the rest of Crown Hill, the IMA, schools such as Butler, International School, the Seminary all are not taxed. All are great places, but look at all this ground in Washington Township not taxed and area residents can't afford the new tax bills.
    Indy Parks / DNR want to purchase the land which will keep it untaxed. They want to purchase with donations, but what happens about the upkeep and police patrol? End result will be increased taxes.
  • Who wants the bet the people out protesting their property taxes are the same ones who protested the development of this land which would have expanded the tax base and lowered taxes?
  • Excellent points about taxes in Washington Township and the upkeep costs that IndyParks would incur. Not to mention the fact that the area hardly lack for undisturbed nature areas, between Holcomb Gardens, the IMA grounds, and the new park being built west of there - all of which are connected by the canal, a greenway trail!
    However, there are enough knowledgeable posters here to wonder whether an appraisal can be obtained for $80,000/ acre.
  • Hello!?! The sellers already had two developers ready to pay somewhere near the asking price for the land. That's one hell of a lot better than an appraisal. Real Estate is only worth what a qualified buyer is willing to pay. We cannot continue to allow myopic pseudo-environmentalists to stand in the way of progressive tax base increasing development. Their ignorance only encourages sprawl and decline. BTW, great point about the ongoing costs of maintenance Tax it-enough is enough.
  • Crown Hill needs to give the green light to start fundraising. Give the groups a chance to prove that they can raise the money and preserve the land!
  • OK, Wake up, so with those two comps, sounds like the first condition can be met. Don't get me wrong, I liked the Mann project. It sounded very do-able, and I thought the lay-out was more sensitive to the neighborhood than Brenwick's.
    I love seeing new life in old neighborhoods!
  • Developing the land will still cost more in taxes, not less than a park. Development of the land is still a bad idea.... Bad for the cemetary, bad for the neighborhood, bad for the people. I have confidence that a win-win solution will surface, even if it takes a little more time. The need to pad the endowment is no longer a pressing issue now that Gibraltar is maintaining the property. Funds will come in time.
  • Rachel, exactly how will developing the land cost more in taxes? Developing the land is good for the neighborhood, which is far from stable, is good for Crown Hill because it allows them to convert a non-revenue producing asset into cash, and good for the people because if it is developed as it CURRENTLY sits, it will be a bunch of grave sites.
  • I live about 2 miles from this area and although I doubt I'd go walking over there, it would be nice to keep a wooded area instead of yet more development. I agree the two purchase contracts offer plenty of evidence of its value, keep in mind that the value to a person depends on what their plans are for it. A developer planning to build a housing units plus some retail can justify paying more than a non-profit buying it for a park. Nonetheless, you can't expect Crown Hill to do anything except get the best price they can.

    While a residential/commercial development would expand the tax base and thus eventually provide some tax relief for the homeowners in the area, you might want to do a bare amount of estimating to realize it would be a very small change. The tax base in the area is gigantic and another 100 homes and a strip mall won't budge the needle. You might save $5.

    Real property tax reflief must come from decrased spending, especially in the schools and township offices, not from Bart's $75M borrowing gimmick, or the idea of putting everyone on a payment plan for the amount of the increase. These are temporary fixes. Glad to see Mitch order a compelte reassessment, espcially business property. It's nuts to adjust all the homeowners to market value and leave commercial porperty as is.
  • I agree with Rachel. And there is more at stake here than taxes and endowments. Ever hear of air pollution, global warming, natural beauty, property values, neighborhood ambience, history, cultural amenities, rights of nature, etc.?
  • Do the math: $30million worth of assessed valuation in the IPS portion of Washington Twp. would produce about $1.2million worth of property tax revenue per year--from property that isn't even taxed today. That's a complete no-brainer.

    Go ahead, call me a mercenary Philistine. But I'll bet you think your own property taxes are too high, too.

    There is abundant open and green space in that immediate vicinity between Butler, CTS, IMA, Woodstock, the rest of Crown Hill and the Canal Trail. Creating or preserving park space there doesn't serve people who live in far more densely-populated parts of Indianapolis.
  • Relax....I have heard of air pollution, global warming, the next ice age, the moon is falling, etc.
    Have you ever heard of sprawl? Since homes and business won't be developed in the city, they will continue to sprawl out to the surrounding areas. You might want to consider all the longer car trips, more car trip, etc. in your air pollution and global warming rant. Beside the natural beauty of someone elses property,which could be gone tomorrow with every tree cut down for use of graves, the current condition of the fenced property is only enjoy as people speed past in the cars. Yes cars, polluting the air as they speed past the area.
  • I hope Crown HIll gives the environmentalists the agreement they need to being their fundraising! I'm surprised the government officials (Mayor, Governor) haven't been on them to get it done, since this property is such an incredible resource for our city! That woods is the only thing keeping our city from being the #1 Worst air quality in the nation--we're dangerously close! And having the ecology research institute I've heard rumored would be exactly the kind of bio-science industry the Mayor's Economic Development Strategic Plan calls for! Let's get going on this project!
  • All good city employees and governmental officials know that new residential development doesn't pay for itself--it ends up costing the city in services like trash pickup, curb building and repair, and snow removal. The only answer is to encourage Crown Hill Cemetery to accept this bid from the environmentalists to do what the city should have done all along--to preserve it as a woodland and to advertise it as a significant quality of life amenity, thus attracting new businesses and young professionals! I don't know much about air quality, but I do know that the most important factor for businesses in relocation is quality of life, and one of the top three elements of quality of life is green space!
  • The number of for sale signs on homes in the Crown HIll area and the number of new and refurbished homes near downtown is Enormous! And the number of small (and failing!) business corners is also huge. I can't imagine that Crown Hill, with its commitment to trees and to the culture of our city, would intentionally delay or discourage reputable nature organizations who bid on this property! They may all be out of town--it is vacation time, after all. But I imagine that if such important nature groups as the ones listed in this article wish to purchase the property, Crown HIll would be ecstatic! Let's let them negotiate in peace!
  • I know that two commercial developers tried to purchase the land--the first backed out when they learned the true cost, and the second plan was refused by the city. It seems apparent that commercial is not what's appropriate for this property, and I applaud Crown Hill for negotiating with the parks groups! Crown Hill will be my hero if it works out a plan that is do-able for these parks groups! Thank you, Crown Hill! Please don't delay too long!
  • The last few comments seem to have the same overriding talk about how Crown Hill is delaying and talk with the groups. I believe the article does say that Crown Hill has talked to the groups, but see no real cash to continue the talk with the groups.

    The idea of an ecology research institute as suggested as a rumor from Butler Grad is a great idea, but have you heard of the Marian College Eco Lab? It is more than 40 acres of wetland, floodplain, and forest area that serves as an outdoor biology labratory. Sounds like a ecology research institute to me, plus if you have ever seen the EcoLab you would know it is much better than the Crown Hill land. Plus there is the new IMA art and nature park. I haven't been there yet, but I am sure it's great.

    I would have to agree with the majority of posters and say the land should be developed, not only to increase a much needed tax base, but also help with the decline in the neighborhood. After all a poster did say it should stay as it is mentioned there are a lot of homes for sale and failing or empty business corners in the area. Sounds like a neighborhood in decline.
  • It would be much better as 'cranky' mentioned to see new life in old neighborhoods. It would be great to see new homes and new homeowners in the neighborhood.
    A good example is Fall Creek Proper. New homes, new neighbors, lots of new life is needed in the neighborhood in decline.

    I love seeing new life in old neighborhoods!
  • The Crown Hill Woods are of value as natural area - woods that are remnants of historic Marion County. Perhaps the last and best example. They are identified as such in the County Master Plan. They are not comparable to other green space like Holcomb Gardens, the IMA Art and Nature Park, or Butler or CTS grounds with their landscaped lawns. They are different and unique. Is it not desirable to preserve this small, irreplacable piece of our heritage while focusing efforts to build the tax base on currently abandoned and under-used properties?
  • In a word, Neighbor? No.

    Sorry, but I see a lot of passionate, but uninformed posts here.

    You are mistaken if you think development of that area will decrease property values. Perhaps a few construction workers is just what the area needs to chase away the robbers who have been preying on nearby retired folks.

    The comparison to 25th and Delaware is excellent and demonstrates how these urban spaces are ripe for development.

    Environmentalists, considering all the of the other options in the vicinity, I have to say, your arguments simply don't hold water.
  • Cranky - What was at 25th and Delaware when redevelopment started there?

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  1. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

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  3. Good try, Mr. Irwin, but I think we all know the primary motivation for pursuing legal action against the BMV is the HUGE FEES you and your firm expect to receive from the same people you claim to be helping ~ taxpayers! Almost all class action lawsuits end up with the victim receiving a pittance and the lawyers receiving a windfall.

  4. Fix the home life. We're not paying for your child to color, learn letters, numbers and possible self control. YOU raise your children...figure it out! We did. Then they'll do fine in elementary school. Weed out the idiots in public schools, send them well behaved kids (no one expects perfection) and watch what happens! Oh, and pray. A mom.

  5. To clarify, the system Cincinnati building is just a streetcar line which is the cheapest option for rail when you consider light rail (Denver, Portland, and Seattle.) The system (streetcar) that Cincy is building is for a downtown, not a city wide thing. With that said, I think the bus plan make sense and something I shouted to the rooftops about. Most cities with low density and low finances will opt for BRT as it makes more financial and logistical sense. If that route grows and finances are in place, then converting the line to a light rail system is easy as you already have the protected lanes in place. I do think however that Indy should build a streetcar system to connect different areas of downtown. This is the same thing that Tucson, Cincy, Kenosha WI, Portland, and Seattle have done. This allows for easy connections to downtown POI, and allows for more dense growth. Connecting the stadiums to the zoo, convention center, future transit center, and the mall would be one streetcar line that makes sense.