Council committee to discuss rezoning of Pittman parcel as family disputes best use

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The Carmel City Council sent to committee a rezoning request to make way for a new office building at Illinois and 106th streets, but not before weighing in on a dispute among the family that has long owned the land.

Developer Steve Pittman of PL Properties LLC is proposing a three-story office building on 5.8 acres at 10580 N. Illinois St., the site of his childhood home. He is requesting the site be rezoned from residential to business to accommodate the project.

Since the death of their father, John Pittman, in 2014, the five Pittman siblings have disputed what to do with the family’s land. Steve Pittman purchased the Illinois Street property through an auction in February 2017. The family squabble has also led to a lengthy delay in developing The Farm, a 62-acre site on Michigan Road in Zionsville that was once planned to be anchored by a Fresh Fare grocery store.

During the Nov. 5 city council meeting, attorney Tom Perkins of Paganelli Law Group spoke against the rezoning on behalf of Mark Pittman and Anne Kelton, two of Steve Pittman’s siblings who live in California but still own property in Carmel, including a 40 percent stake in The Bridges development about a mile away.

Council President Kevin Rider, who described the late John Pittman as a dear friend, told Perkins that John Pittman would have been ashamed of Mark Pittman and Kelton’s attempts to thwart their siblings’ development of family property.

“They’re living 2,000 miles away, and they’re using this to escalate a family argument,” Rider said during the meeting. “I’m offended by that, and John would be offended by that, and I can say that with confidence. I don’t want to hear from them again. I’m only speaking for myself and not the council, but I don’t care what they have to say.”

Mark Pittman denied Nov. 7 that his father and Rider were friends and that he and Kelton’s remonstrance is based on a family dispute.

“Steve Pittman has had several projects up for rezone in the past 3 ½ years, including another current project, and we haven’t taken any position on these projects,” Pittman stated in an email. “If our opposition were related to family disputes, we would have opposed those projects as well.”

Mark Pittman said that several people who live near the proposed project contacted him about their opposition to the rezoning and that it was always his father’s intention that the land remain residential.

“We are confident that our father would have been disgusted by Steve’s bulldozing of his home and commercialization of this property,” Mark Pittman stated.

Other remonstrators at the meeting said they do not believe a business zoning is the best use for the land, which is surrounded by residential areas to the west and south.

“My concern is the city keeps trying to rezone residential to commercial everywhere and they keep trying to increase residential density everywhere,” said Jill Meisenheimer, who lives near but not adjacent to the property. “This is just an example of this happening again and again and again.”

But not all nearby residents oppose the project. Murray Clark, an attorney with Faegre Baker Daniels, spoke on behalf of families in the adjacent three-home Rosado Hill development who support the rezoning.

“We recognize it’s a transitional piece (of property), and we recognize that single-family residential is very unlikely at that parcel,” Murray said.

Steve Pittman offered several commitments developed after discussions with neighbors. They include limiting uses on the property, setting regular business hours for operation and building an 8-foot wall on the south and west property boundaries.

Pittman said he is already working to find tenants for the building, although none have been announced.

“This building will never be built if we do not have tenants, so we’ll work on pre-leasing,” he said.

The council’s land use and special studies committee is expected to discuss the project at its next meeting. A date has not yet been announced.

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