I-Town Church hopes to build a new house of worship in Fishers on land now occupied by the Gray Eagle Golf Course driving range and clubhouse, raising red flags from nearby homeowners and at least one member of the Fishers City Council.
I-Town has signed a contract with R.N. Thompson, which currently owns Gray Eagle Golf Course, to buy the approximately 27-acre plot of land with the intention of building a new Fishers church.
I-Town Pastor Dave Sumrall said in a Fishers City Council meeting last month the location on the southeast corner of 126th Street and Brooks School Road would help supplement the church’s youth outreach.
“It’s in between our two high schools that are plagued with mental health issues and drug abuse issues, and that’s what our church does, we solve those problems,” Sumrall said in the meeting. “Being in between the two high schools is a great location because they’ll have to drive by.”
The Gray Eagle Golf Course’s driving range, clubhouse, practice greens and two retention ponds would be included in the sale.
The golf course itself is not being sold and will remain under R.N. Thompson’s management, leading nearby homeowners to question the future viability of a golf course without a driving range.
“It’s a jump to the unknown,” said Gray Eagle Home Owners Association President Chris de Monclin. “If the current owner is not able to maintain the golf course, it would have an impact on the whole neighborhood.”
For I-Town to move forward, the Fishers City Council must approve its request to amend the approved uses of the property to include a church. I-Town's request will be reviewed at a Fishers Plan Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Fishers City Hall Auditorium.
The purpose of this meeting will be for members of the Plan Commission to review the amendment and submit a recommendation to the City Council for its June 19 meeting.
Church representatives did not respond to requests to discuss the plans in detail before IBJ deadline. Mason McDonald, executive administrator for I-Town, emailed a statement to IBJ, saying in part, “We are excited for the opportunity to continue to invest in the Fishers community and central Indiana for generations to come.”
Chris de Monclin said he was impressed overall with the plan presented by I-Town and supports the project.
“The building itself will be much more attractive than the current golf course building,” de Monclin said. “It looks like there is also a very strong focus on kids as well. There will be activities during service and so on and it will be good way to channel kids living in the neighborhood to do some positive activities.”
I-Town’s plans include constructing the church and repurposing the current Gray Eagle Golf Course clubhouse. It has agreed to leave at least 25 percent of the property as green space.
I-Town, which currently hosts services at three locations in Carmel, Castleton and Fishers, has attracted upward of 3,000 guests to its weekend services.
Residents of the Graystone subdivision neighboring the Gray Eagle driving range worry about the congestion a new church would bring to the already busy 126th Street and Brooks School Road intersection, near Brooks School Elementary.
Graystone residents also said they felt blindsided by a potential departure from the Fishers 2040 Plan, which suggests long-term guidelines for land use but is not legally binding. The plan envisioned the Gray Eagle driving range and golf course as “Park/Open Space.”
Thirty Graystone residents signed a petition opposing the project.
“When we made the decision to build and picked our lot, we were not informed there was a risk that the plan for the land would be materially altered,” said Kim Miller, who has lived in her Graystone residence for less than a year. “If this were approved, our property values will be significantly impacted and that is not acceptable.”
Graystone resident Robert Jackson wrote in an open letter to city officials that he purchased his home because of its view.
“I especially enjoy watching adults with their children having family time,” the letter read. “I counted 30 people using the putting greens and driving range on Friday evening. It would be a crime to take that away from our community.”
During the Fishers City Council meeting on May 15, City Council member Pete Peterson expressed concern for the continued success of the Gray Eagle Golf Course.
“The people who are avid golfers don’t go right up to the first tee box, step up and play a round of golf,” Peterson said. “They go like anybody else and they warm up before they play, so by taking away that driving range, you’re taking away the people who normally will play that golf course and make it still viable.”
On the City Council’s advice, I-Town updated its land use request to include specific details on a clubhouse and other amenities that would be built to support the golf course.