UPDATE: Neighbors want new buyer for Crown Hill land

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Mann Properties won’t be allowed to develop 71 acres of Crown Hill Cemetery into homes and retail after a 4-3 decision this afternoon by the Metropolitan Development Commission.

The decision to deny a rezoning request cannot be appealed.

Mann offered $5.6 million for the tract of woods and wetlands at the north end of the nation’s third-largest private cemetery. Crown Hill planned to use the proceeds toward a fund to maintain its 555-acre property.

Planning staff recommended approving the rezoning request, which would have allowed 309 homes and a retail center while preserving more than 20 acres of woods and wetlands.

But neighbors vigorously fought the plan. More than 100 people showed up at the hearing, many of them wearing green arm-bands. They said the land is an irreplaceable natural resource that should be preserved.

Those who spoke against the plan included retired Indiana University economist Morton Marcus and City-County Councilor Scott Keller. A handful of speakers represented several groups, including the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association and Crooked Creek Community Council.

The proposed development, dubbed Mapleton, would have had 171 townhouses, 50 single-family homes on lots with at least 7,200 square feet and 88 single-family homes on lots with at least 4,200 square feet. The project cost was estimated at between $90 and $100 million.

The developers could not reapply for a zoning change for at least another year, said their attorney, Stephen Mears.

Crown Hill CEO Keith Norwalk argued that the property had been on the market for three years, long enough for environmentalists to mount a campaign to purchase the property.

That’s exactly what neighbors who opposed the project plan to do.

"Now the real work begins," said Mary Ellen Gadski, a steering committee member for the Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors.

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