Opposition to proposed Monon Lake development south of Home Place gains traction
By Adam Aasen
It appears that the proposed Monon Lake subdivision has some major hurdles.
After hearing from angry Home Place residents for months, the Carmel Plan Commission gave an unfavorable recommendation to the controversial planned unit development located north of I-465 near and west of the Monon Trail.
The proposal now moves on to the Carmel City Council – which could still make changes and approve the project when it comes before the council in August. But the plan commission’s rejection creates a tougher path.
“We’re very happy that the plan commission was on our side,” said Jeremy Abbott, who attended the meeting and is a part of the Save Monon Woods Facebook group. “Now, we just hope the City Council sees it the same way.”
M/I Homes sought to build 43 single-family homes on 33.95 acres, but neighboring residents organized to oppose the development because they felt it was too dense and would create traffic problems in the area. Some didn’t like the idea of tearing down trees in the wooded area to build these “empty nester” homes near the southern border of Carmel.
The area is already zoned for 28 homes, but the developer hoped to build more than that. M/I Homes proposed a density of 1.27 units per acre, less than the suggested density of 2.9 units per acre. The homes were expected to cost from $325,000 to $400,000. Surrounding neighborhoods have a density of 2.3 units per acre.
Furious neighbors packed the City Hall chambers with some standing in the wings wearing bright orange stickers that proclaimed “No Monon PUD.”
Because of a busy agenda, the plan commission didn’t begin discussing Monon Lake until after 9 p.m. – three hours after the meeting began. Some tired attendees had their endurance tested and left, but determined protestors remained, many from the College Meadows neighborhood.
The plan commission’s subdivision committee gave the project a unanimous unfavorable recommendation, but the city’s planning department gave it a positive report.
The developer has defended its project, saying that buyers want smaller lots nowadays and that planned green space and tree barriers should provide a buffer between other neighborhoods.
Jim Shaniver, of the law firm Nelson & Frankenberger which represented M/I Homes at the meeting, said he disagrees with the characterization that there is a “tough road ahead” and believes everything will get worked out at the council level.
“This is the normal process for a rezone,” he said after the meeting. “We’ll move forward to the council.”
After several meetings with the plan commission, the developer agreed to widen 101st Street to help ease traffic concerns. Some wanted more streets to ease congestion, but other commissioners said it would be best to cut off traffic flowing into adjacent neighborhoods, such as Marwood Drive.
There was talk of involving Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation in developing a portion of the property. M/I Homes agreed to donate area east of the lake to the parks department and construct a “viewing area” and sub-trails off of the Monon to increase connectivity.
Commissioner Joshua Kirsh, who is also on the Parks Board, said he would prefer to protect the area’s environmental features and hinted he would prefer that Carmel Clay Parks could have time to work a deal to buy the land.
“I hate to see something critical to our environment disappear because we didn’t take the time to look at it,” Kirsh said.
Commissioner John W. Adams said he felt it wasn’t appropriate to present the project as a planned unit development just so a developer can add more homes than the original zoning allows.
“It’s not like the land can’t be developed. You can develop it at twenty eight homes,” Adams said. “I just don’t see why it needs this rezone.”