Indianapolis tries to halt Carmel’s 96th Street roundabout plan

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Carmel's plan to build a series of roundabouts on 96th Street may have hit a roadblock, with the city of Indianapolis asking a court to stop its neighbor to the north from moving forward with the project.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this month in Marion Superior Court, Indianapolis claims Carmel would encroach on the city’s corporate boundary with Hamilton County by building the four roundabouts along 96th Street. The plan calls for a roundabout at the intersections of Hazel Dell Parkway, Gray Road, Delegates Row and Randall Drive.

The seven-page complaint is seeking a preliminary injunction preventing Carmel from working on the project.

Indianapolis argues in its complaint that Carmel’s partial plans and schematic drawings show the project will spill across the county line. Under state statute, Indianapolis asserts, Carmel must enter into an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with Indianapolis before it can acquire right-of-way or other property interests.

The complaint acknowledges that Carmel is legally obligated to maintain the portion of 96th Street because it is on Hamilton County's southern border.

"This lawsuit is not about whether Carmel must maintain the street," Indianapolis said in a brief supporting the complaint. "It is about Carmel’s plan to expand the street and its right-of-way into Indianapolis’s territorial boundaries. Settled Indiana law provides a mechanism for Carmel to do that, but only if it negotiates an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with Indianapolis."

Noting that Carmel has indicated acquisition of right-of-way for the project has already begun within Indianapolis, the suit claims Carmel’s violation of the city’s exclusive territorial jurisdiction will irreparably harm Indianapolis. According to the complaint, Carmel intends to begin taking bids on the project this week with the goal of starting construction as early as this summer.

"Specific to this project, Carmel believes it can unilaterally expand the boundary road between Indianapolis and Carmel in a manner that literally will shrink Indianapolis and remove land from Marion County tax rolls," court documents say. "Indeed, it already began that process without even providing Indianapolis a traffic study showing that its planned construction is appropriate."

Carmel director of community relations and economic development Nancy Heck declined to comment on the suit. “It is not the city’s policy to comment on pending litigation,” she said.

Donald Morgan, chief litigation counsel for the city of Indianapolis, declined to talk about the case as well. “It’s our standard practice, out of respect for the litigation process, to not comment on pending litigation,” he said in a voicemail message.

Indianapolis noted that Carmel has secured Interlocal Cooperation Agreements on a similar project along 96th Street to build roundabouts at Keystone Avenue, Priority Way and Haverstick Road.

Carmel has not responded to the complaint but it did file a motion for a change of judge. Marion Superior Judge Thomas Carroll granted the motion June 7 and subsequently approved the request by Indianapolis and Carmel to appoint Boone Superior Judge Matthew Kincaid as the special judge in the matter.

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