Carmel plans to ask court to halt certain events at Lucas Estate

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The City of Carmel plans to take action to prohibit the Lucas Estate from hosting certain large-scale events on its 70-acre site as the Lucas family continues to insist it has not violated any ordinances.

Carmel plans to file requests for a preliminary and permanent injunction against Lucas Estate, a residential property near 116th Street and Ditch Road owned by Forrest and Charlotte Lucas of Lucas Oil Company fame. According to a press release, city officials do not believe the Lucases have shown a “good faith effort” to comply with the city’s zoning ordinance.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, we owe it to the residential neighbors in the community to require compliance from the Lucases,” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. “The neighbors rely on the city to enforce the zoning ordinances in place, which helps protect their property values.”

Attorney Michael Wukmer issued a statement on behalf of the Lucas family that claims the Lucases have not been notified of a lawsuit. It states that the Lucas family does not operate a commercial business at the estate.

“The Lucas Estate has never been for rent, nor have the Lucases ever charged for the use of their facilities,” the statement reads. “The Lucas Estate does not now, nor has it ever, advertised itself as a wedding, concert or event venue. The Lucases only allow their home to be used for charities, fundraisers or other activities that they invite or select.”

City officials entered discussions with the Lucas family two years ago after neighbors complained about noise and traffic and event venue owners alleged large events hosted in a residentially zoned area created an unlevel playing field, as business zoning carries stricter rules.

Lucas Estate and City of Carmel officials attempted mediation but were unsuccessful.

Carmel officials pointed to recent advertisements for the venue in wedding guides and a Facebook page that lists it as a location for a concert series.

Wukmer said a third party website has identified the estate as a wedding destination and that the Lucases have not advertised it as such.

“It is not authorized by the Lucases, has not been used by the Lucases, does not do business with the Lucases and is not affiliated in any way with the Lucases,” Wukmer said. “(I’m) not sure why the city is relying on information it knows is incorrect.”

City officials said that even if the Lucases don’t charge to use the space they still make a profit from catering. City officials also noted that Lucas Estate is not required to install the same safety features as other venues and that it has an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

The Lucas family stated that the estate has never been cited for a violation of any zoning ordinance and that it hasn’t been ordered to stop hosting events.

“The Lucases are not looking for special treatment,” their statement reads. “They have repeatedly said that we are willing to abide by the same rules as everybody else. We also said repeatedly that we want to be good neighbor. They have committed to work with the City of Carmel to ensure that they are in compliance with the zoning and noise ordinances.”

In September 2017, the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals denied a variance that would have allowed Lucas Estate to host events such as weddings and fundraisers. In 2018 Forrest Lucas said he applied for the variance at the city’s request he never believed it was necessary.

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