Carmel City Council close to completing comprehensive plan changes
By Adam Aasen
After sitting in committee for almost two years, changes to Carmel’s Comprehensive Plan will likely be put in front of the council very soon.
Although the Land Use Committee still needs an official vote for a positive recommendation for the full Carmel City Council, members hashed out all of the changes June 9 and reached agreements on almost every issue. A brief meeting will be scheduled for early July to allow time to review the changes.
Recently, some residents were concerned that the city would eliminate the potential for bike lanes throughout the city plans, opting for multi-use paths instead. These critics felt this would discourage cycling and that multi-use paths are not useful because serious cyclists traveling 20 miles an hour or more would share the paths with parents pushing strollers.
Other residents feared that if bike lanes were expanded throughout the city that would mean tearing up people’s lawns and using eminent domain to seize private property.
In the end, the council tried to make both sides happy.
Originally, past committee members opted to remove bike lane recommendations and narrow city right-of-ways in their changes to the 2009 land-use guidelines. But on Monday, councilors decided to keep bike lanes in the document but built in exceptions so bike lanes aren’t illogically forced into narrow streets.
To protect homeowners, the council created “conservation corridors” which are areas where developers must consider protecting private property, privacy and environmental features.
Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider emphasized that this document provides guidelines, but not mandates. The comprehensive plan exists to keep everyone on the same page when approving new construction, renovation and neighborhood development. It doesn’t mean existing streets will automatically be changed to fit the plan.
In most cases, residents wouldn’t have their yard sizes affected by widening for bike lanes because these changes would be made when new homes are built. Still, it is possible that the city could install new lanes and widen streets when they regularly resurface existing roads or while installing new utilities or drainage.
Councilors discussed several issues, such as emphasizing a need for more “empty-nester” homes in the city, encouraging public art without mandating any new projects, and whether one bike lane or two is better. In each instance, the council leaned toward leaving room in the language so issues can be handled on a case-by-case basis.