Carmel City Council adds buffer requirements to Old Town rezoning

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Residents who live near the Carmel Arts & Design District spoke out against changes to zoning in the city’s Old Town area, claiming that large buildings could be built very close to the one- and two-story ranch-style houses.

And at the March 7 City Council meeting, the councilors acknowledged some of their concerns by adding an amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow for a minimum setback for homes.

“To add this minimum, there’s no unknown,” said Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider, who proposed the amendment. “We’re giving a guarantee.”

The amendment states that setbacks will be applied along the rear or the side of an existing building – not the front – and will be equal to the height of the closest building but not exceed 35 feet.

The council unanimously approved the setback and the other zoning changes. It was also decided that trees or shrubs would be required in the buffer area to create a screen for nearby residents.

This is all part of an aggressive plan by Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and his supporters to change standards for land-use classifications in a large part of Carmel’s Old Town area, from 96th to 146th streets and from Keystone Parkway to Illinois Street. The goal is to create a walkable dense downtown that will maximize development — often a mixture of office, retail and/or residential in one building — in Carmel’s urban core.

The amendment and final vote comes after several residents who live near the affected area spoke out.

“Every other zone has setbacks built in,” said Kelly Baskett, who lives on Emerson Road, before the amendment was added. “The city wants to come right up and come way up tall.”

Charles Demler, an active member of the Johnson Addition neighborhood, said Brainard told him that there would be a 35-foot buffer between his neighborhood and the proposed Midtown development.

“I think a 35-foot buffer is good, but a 60-foot buffer is better,” he said.

After the amendment was added, the setback was put into writing and will now affect neighborhoods beyond just Johnson Addition and Wilson Village.

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