Foes of $25M Broad Ripple project go to court

A local group opposing a massive, mixed-use project in Broad Ripple has taken its fight to the courts in hopes of stopping the $25 million development from materializing.

The group, led by nearby retailer Good Earth Natural Foods, wants a judge to overturn zoning variances awarded to the project in October by the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission. A hearing has been set for Feb. 12 to consider the motion.

MDC voted 5-2 to grant local developer Browning Investments Inc. variances enabling it to construct a building higher than what local zoning ordinances call for and with less parking than what’s typically required.

For a 2-acre property northeast of the intersection of College Avenue and the Central Canal, Browning has planned a 75-foot-tall apartment building and a 33,500-square-foot grocery store, earmarked for a Whole Foods.

Beside the retail component, Browning’s project would contain 104 apartment units and a four-story parking garage with 340 spaces. The MDC's decision came after several contentious public forums and city hearings weighing the merits of the development.

But Good Earth, located about a block from the site, argues in its court filing—known as a complaint for judicial review—that the variances awarded by MDC violate what’s allowed under an area comprehensive plan.

Browning’s project exceeds height standards by 40 feet, while the number of parking spaces it proposes falls short by 32, the complaint says.

“It all comes down to size,” Good Earth owner Rudy Nehrling said. “This would set a precedent for big-box stores going forward. There’s no going back after this.”

The eight-page complaint says that 1,500 residents oppose the project, according to a Broad Ripple Village Association survey completed in June 2013.
Nehrling’s complaint has been pending in Marion Superior Court No. 11 since November. The MDC filed a motion to dismiss the case on Jan. 15.

It could be at least a few more months before Judge John F. Hanley renders a decision, Nehrling’s lawyer, Kathy Davis, said.

“It’s basically an appeal of the [MDC] decision,” Davis said of Nehrling’s complaint. “It’s another set of eyes to look at the record and the decision made by the MDC.”

Browning Investments, meanwhile, is moving forward with its plans.

“I feel like it’s certainly without a merit,” Jamie Browning, a partner in the developer, said of the complaint. “But it’s up to the judge to determine that.”

Browning Investments is expected to ask the city for a subsidy to help finance the project. Browning declined to divulge a figure but said the firm plans to file its paperwork with the city this week.

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