Tide turns against Republic Development’s neighborhood project on Carmel’s west side

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The Carmel Plan Commission voted 5-4 Monday to give a proposed residential real estate project an unfavorable recommendation after hundreds of residents expressed concern over the addition of commercial development to the plan.

After months of favorable reviews, the plan commission decided to forward Toledo, Ohio-based Republic Development’s proposed Village at Jackson’s Grant to the city council with the unfavorable opinion. The vote came after nearby residents sent more than 120 letters opposed to the project, and more than 200 signed their names to a petition against the proposed commercial uses the development might introduce to the residential area north of 116th Street and west of Spring Mill Road.

As proposed, the Village could bring 19 single-family homes with an average price of $700,000 to an undeveloped 21 acres at the northwest corner of 116th and Spring Mill. The project also has been designed to include up to 55 townhouses averaging $575,000 and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

Plans say the commercial space could include neighborhood services or professional office uses such as a coffee shop, art gallery, a deli, daycare or fitness facility, or a co-working space, among other uses.

If residents get their wish and the commercial space is eliminated, the developer is planning to instead build as many as 70 townhomes.

“There’s no need to have any more commercial in this area,” commission member Alan Potasnik said.

Though Carmel Director of Community Services Mike Hollibaugh said Carmel’s comprehensive plan has no amendment that limits commercial development to the east side of Spring Mill Road, residents and several commissioners felt keeping the boundary in place met the spirit of the law.

“If it has been represented to the community that Spring Mill is a dividing line, we have to respect that,” commission member Christine Zoccola said.

Residents also wrote the commission to question the project’s density and the increased traffic generated by the commercial space. Some even suggested the change in use might lower property values.

Steve Hardin, an attorney with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath representing Republic, said the lower-priced homes in the Village won’t devalue the homes valued above $1 million in the neighborhoods to the north. He said the commercial node—with the potential for an ice cream or coffee shop—will only add value to the communities.

“It’s just a different season of life or lifestyle people want,” Hardin said.

Commission member Nick Kestnersaid the the introduction of commercial uses west of Spring Mill could pave the way for similar future development.

“I think we’re now encroaching in the low-density and no-commercial area,” Kestner said. “We’re setting a precedent that the next person that wants to come along and encroach has an easier way to go. I just look at this as another blank check.”

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