Carmel City Council expected to address garage funding, small cell phone towers at March 20 meeting

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Several ordinances are expected to come up for a vote at the March 20 Carmel City Council meeting, especially since the first meeting in April is canceled because of Carmel’s spring break.

The council is expected to take action regarding a $4.5-million installment-purchase agreement to help finance the parking garage that will be part of the mixed-use development owned by Chuck Lazzara across from Bub’s Burgers in the Carmel Arts & Design District.

Plans call for Lazzara to construct the 200-space $3.5 million to $4.5 million garage, which will be for the general public and owned by the city. The city would make payments, with interest, to purchase it.

There was some debate at the recent Finance and Rules Committee meeting about whether to have the installment-purchase contract with a fixed 20-year interest rate or whether to have a floating rate which could start off much lower — maybe a full percentage point lower — but would change over time with the market. If interest rates go up, this could cost the city more money, but there’s always the option to refinance. If interest rates go down the city could save money in the long term. But the floating rate would definitely start off lower than the fixed rate, which means some savings up front.

City Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said at the Finance Committee meeting that he doesn’t envision interest rates going down anytime soon, and because of the improving national economy they will only go up.

Corrie Meyer, director of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, said these details would be hammered out and a plan would be decided on, but it appears likely that the Carmel City Council will approve this deal. It was unanimously sent out of committee and will be brought up tonight most likely.

Another ordinance that will likely get approved on March 20 is one that allows the city to regulate the size and location of small cell towers.

Currently, the Indiana State Legislature is considering a law that would prohibit municipalities from banning small cell phone towers and allow telecommunications companies to place them in public right of way.

“I’m all for cell service, but if not handled properly it could be a major issue,” City Engineer Jeremy Kashman said.

City Council President Sue Finkam agrees that the proliferation of small cell towers could be an eyesore.

“I just think of all of the money we’re going to spend to beautify the Monon and then they put these suckers all over the right of way,” Finkam said.

City Attorney Ashley Ulbricht said there’s a chance that cities like Carmel could get grandfathered in if the state law passes, but she said it’s important to get something on the books because everything could change.

“As of now, we will have no control over our own right of way if this passes,” Ulbricht said.

City Councilor Ron Carter said this is an example of the State Legislature overstepping its authority, and he said he hopes state legislators who vote for such a law would see repercussions at election time.

“The legislature is not leaving us much choice but to take unconventional action,” Carter said.

Carter is also trying to add an ordinance to the March 20 agenda that would prevent people from parking on sidewalks, multi-use paths and bicycle lanes. He said this especially becomes a problem in the spring with all of the outdoor festivals. He said he’d like to get it on the agenda sooner since there isn’t another council meeting until mid-April.

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