Airport Authority continues to fight off-site parking lot

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The Indianapolis Airport Authority has taken its fight against an off-airport parking operator to the Indiana Court of Appeals after exhausting its options in Marion County Superior Court.

The IAA filed an appeal with state court on Nov. 16 seeking to stop Ohio-based Chavez Properties from building a $15 million parking facility in the AmeriPlex business park, a four-mile drive from the terminal entrance at Indianapolis International Airport.

It’s the latest twist in the airport’s effort to stop a potential competitor to its own parking operations.

Parking is the authority’s second-largest source of revenue, bringing in $39 million of $136.5 million in 2011 operating revenues.

“We believe it was never the intention when [AmeriPlex] was originally zoned that off-airport parking be allowed,” Michael Wells, president of the Indianapolis Airport Authority’s board, told IBJ on Tuesday.

The brouhaha began last year when AmeriPlex owner Midwest Logistics Partners asked the Metropolitan Development Commission for a modification of a zoning land-use plan.

The MDC approved the land-use changes, over the objection of the airport authority, giving Chavez Properties all 31 acres it needed in AmeriPlex for the parking lot, which is expected to employ 45 people.

The authority appealed the commission’s decision to Marion Superior Court.

Last August, Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele found the MDC to be within its authority and that the 1995 land-use plan governing AmeriPlex provided “zoning framework that could evolve fluidly and efficiently over AmeriPlex’s development life span.”

Last month the authority filed with Marion Superior a motion to correct errors. But  the court denied reconsideration.
The airport authority still contends that only the City-County Council can approve such changes in land use. If successful, the authority’s challenge could diminish the MDC’s ability to amend so-called Commercial Special Districts like AmeriPlex.

“IAA remains of the opinion that the Metropolitan Development Commission did not have the legal authority to change the land use authorizing the development of a commercial parking lot on Ameriplex Boulevard and that the Court of Appeals is the appropriate forum for the determination of the legal issues presented,” airport authority CEO Robert Duncan said Tuesday in a prepared statement.
The airport’s tenacious stance has upset some in Decatur Township, who say Chavez Properties’ proposed Fast Part & Relax lot could generate $400,000 in annual tax revenue. 

The airport is regarded as both a blessing and a curse to some Decatur residents because authority land is exempt from the township’s tax rolls. The authority has grown its footprint in the township over the years, including acquiring residences affected by jet noise.

That the airport is battling a potential competitor outside of its property has raised the ire of some City-Council Council members.

“I have concerns about their nixing (off-airport) development, particularly anything that they think might be competition to them," councilor Jason Holliday, a Republican, told IBJ last month. "What else will they try to oppose or get stopped?”

Wells contends that the authority, which swapped parcels of land with AmeriPlex developers over the years, was never informed the business park had plans for operations that would directly compete with the airport.

He also said the city helped make infrastructure improvements for AmeriPlex that shouldn’t now be used to effectively compete against the airport.

Wells, a longtime real estate developer, also questioned the need for another off-airport parking lot, noting that air travel is still depressed and thus the need for additional parking is not there.

An attorney for Chavez, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, previously said that land-use plans dating from the early 1990s showed that some parcels in Ameriplex would be dedicated for aviation-related uses.

Whatever the case, the airport authority has successfully managed to halt construction on the lot for the season.

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