Nora, developer reach settlement on controversial development

North-side Indianapolis residents and an affiliate of Keystone Realty Group have reached a settlement over a contentious proposed development near the corner of 86th Street and Keystone Avenue.

The settlement, which was approved 18-2 by the Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night after a lengthy meeting, will allow developer Green Indy LLC to build a revised version of the so-called Alexander at the Crossing project that was initially denied by the Metropolitan Development Commission last year.

haverstick nora mapThe new plan is to build a multistory, mixed-use project that would have a 28,000-square-foot footprint at the south end of the property. The developer could eventually build homes on the north end of the property (see map at right).

Nora residents who agreed to the settlement said it was better than previous development plans for the site, which could have involved a clear-cutting of the trees in what’s become known as Haverstick Woods.

“This development is going to happen,” said Driftwood Hills resident Melissa De Groff. “The developer owns the property. As much as I would like to see all those trees there and not have another building, that’s unrealistic. I think we have the best deal we can possibly get.”

Council member Colleen Fanning, who represents the area, said the rare settlement process allows for the registered neighborhood association to have a voice “in trying to create an outcome that is the most beneficial outcome possible to the neighborhood."

The settlement agreement states that the property owners will contribute $28,000 to Nora-Northside Community Council Inc. to be used for a “traffic and pedestrian safety fund.”

The settlement also limits parking on the parcel to 300 spaces, commits to building less dense housing on the north side of the property, limits where traffic can turn out of the future development to control traffic, and requires the developer to “use reasonable efforts to preserve as many large, healthy, non-invasive trees on the development parcel."

But it was fiercely opposed by certain members of the nearby Driftwood Hills neighborhood, many of whom came to the council meeting and alleged that they were excluded from the settlement process.

Driftwood Hills resident John Watson said the settlement left “several issues that are unsettled.”

“It is at best a minor improvement over what it was before,” he said.

The settlement process came as the result of a previous council vote in March, when a clerical error brought the development issue back through the council.

Fanning and other council members voted to “call it down,” to try to give neighbors another chance to have their say on the proposal.

Monday's council meeting devolved into arguments between residents of different north-side neighborhoods, their lawyers, and others about whether or not the Driftwood Hills neighborhood was adequately included after that March vote.

The debate centered on whether the neighbors were pushed away from the negotiating table or walked away.

“Was that neighborhood left out, or did they voluntarily walk out?” asked Democrat Jared Evans.

“Driftwood Hills has always asked, and almost begged, everyone simply to be a part of the process,” said Driftwood Hills attorney Russell Sipes.

But Fanning said when Driftwood Hills decided to “no longer support the call-down, they were no longer interested in that settlement process.”

“In doing that, they would not be able to sit at the negotiation table,” Fanning said.

Previously, Nora residents had wanted to prevent the construction of a big-box store and a clear-cutting of old trees on the parcel, which Green Indy purchased in 2010.

The Nora neighborhood association last year voiced its frustration and opposition to plans to build the first iteration of Alexander at the Crossing, a $20 million, 60,000-square-foot office and retail building.

But what many residents said they were most concerned about was when they found out that shutting down Keystone’s plan would have allowed a 2005 plan, which the neighbors consider to be more disruptive, could be allowed to go forward.

Council members Vop Osili and Zach Adamson abstained from Monday’s council vote. Democrats Christine Scales and Frank Mascari voted against the settlement.

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