The Carmel City Council voted 4-3 to approve turning the Johnson Addition neighborhood into a conservation district. This status – slightly below a historic designation – will make it so a commission would have to approve selling a home, tearing one down or making major alterations.
The vote split among familiar lines. Councilors Luci Snyder, Rick Sharp, Carol Schleif and Eric Seidensticker all voted for it, while Councilors Sue Finkam, Kevin “Woody” Rider and Ron Carter voted against the designation.
Many residents in the 1950s-style neighborhood, which is south of Main Street, west of 4th Avenue and east of Guilford Road, have expressed concerns that large out-of-character homes could endanger the feel of their community.
Ultimately, the vote came down to respecting the wishes of the people. Some felt the petition – which had more than 50 percent of the households sign – showed that a majority wanted to become a conservation district.
But others questioned whether the petition was a true reflection. Rider said he rarely trusts petitions because people can be misinformed. He pointed to a flyer that said that developers were going to tear down the Johnson Addition houses to construct part of the Midtown Plan, which is filled with untruths.
“I do not trust petitions. I just don’t,” he said. “Petitions are just what are said to people on their porches.”
Carter suggested that “scare tactics” might have been used to obtain signatures and that creating the conservation district could negatively affect home values.
Finkam said she opposes Main Street being included in this plan because it has a different character than the rest of the neighborhood.
But the other four councilors said they saw no problem with the petition. Schleif said she was present at many of the neighborhood meetings and she thought they were well attended.
But Sharp said he thinks the conservation district can be a good thing because it protects the affordable, classic-style homes near the Carmel Arts & Design District.
“We cannot duplicate that housing stock here in Carmel,” he said.