Carmel postpones hearing on St. Vincent project after neighbors, officials demand details

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A zoning hearing regarding a potential major real estate project involving St. Vincent Health has been postponed until next month after neighbors and city officials expressed frustration over the lack of details developers are sharing with the public. 

Sexton Development LLC—which owns 15 acres at the northwest corner of 96th and Spring Mill Road—and Ambrose Property Group have asked Carmel officials to rezone 30 acres between 96th Street and Interstate 465 to develop a business campus with multiple buildings and parking garages.

A map filed with the rezoning request shows the property, which straddles Spring Mill Road, would feature nine buildings and four parking garages.

The proposal was expected to go before the Carmel Plan Commission Tuesday night but was postponed until May 15. Plan Commission Secretary Lisa Motz told IBJ the proposal was moved to a meeting when the agenda is less busy to ensure there is plenty of space in the building for citizens.

In a statement, Ambrose said it submitted the request for the postponement "as a courtesy after receiving word that current conditions at Carmel City Hall could limit public access. One of our goals during this process is to facilitate productive communication between all project stakeholders, and that requires appropriate public access to meetings. Officials are working on an alternate location for the May meeting, and we look forward to our presentation."

Speculation about the project started growing in February, when Ambrose filed plans with the city of Carmel for a health campus at the site.

Around that time, IBJ reported Ambrose had partnered with Bremner Real Estate to make offers to buy homes in Lacoma Estates, a subdivision just west of the project location. A letter sent to residents described a $1 billion hospital complex. Those neighbors said St. Vincent was behind the proposal.

Earlier this month, St. Vincent-Indiana CEO Jonathan Nalli confirmed to IBJ that the hospital system has options to buy land at 96th Street and Spring Mill Road, but he said there are no plans to build a $1 billion hospital complex at the site. St. Vincent doesn't have definite plans for the site, he said.

St. Vincent’s main campus, at 2001 W. 86th St. in Indianapolis, is about three miles west of the proposed site, and the hospital system has no plans to abandon it, Nalli told IBJ.

Ambrose President Aasif Bade previously told IBJ: “We do not discuss potential or impending projects.”

But in its statement on Tuesday, the company said, "We are in the very early stages of this project and fully expect to provide additional development details regarding the proposal as the request moves through the city’s Plan Commission. Our current focus is to rezone the property to allow for maximum flexibility in the future. This is a lengthy process, and we look forward to continued engagement with Carmel officials, appropriate governing bodies, neighbors and other stakeholders."

Neighbors say they’re frustrated because they’re not getting clear answers about what’s being proposed from the developers. And city officials say they won’t approve the rezoning request without specifics.

“Just as we handle all rezones of property, the city of Carmel needs to see a detailed development plan for the property, especially one so near a residential area,” Nancy Heck, director of community relations and economic development for Carmel, said in a written statement. “They don’t have a chance of obtaining a rezone without a clear and transparent explanation of what they intend to do.”

Jeff Mortier, who owns a home at the southwest corner of 96th and Spring Mill, said the project’s developer hasn’t been transparent with its plans, and St. Vincent hasn’t been forthcoming about the role it is playing in the development.

He’s lived in his home 17 years and said neighbors bought houses believing more homes would go up where the project is planned, not a medical campus with multistory buildings.

Such a development would have negative effects on traffic, pollution, lighting and noise levels, and would diminish property values in the neighborhoods nearby, Mortier said.

“I think they just made a miscalculation about how the project was going to be received and didn’t have the expectation the neighbors would be able to unify and voice their concerns so actively,” he said.

A group of neighbors has hired an attorney to represent their interests in the remonstrance process, he said.

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