A group home for adults with dementia is set to be constructed soon in northeast Carmel, but some neighbors are upset about changes they expect it will bring to their community and their lack of involvement in the process.
Construction is planned to begin this month on Story Cottage, which will house eight to 10 people at a time, with residents starting to move in by the end of the year. The 5,000-square-foot home, which is larger than other homes in the Maple Acres neighborhood, is planned on the southeast corner of Carey Road and Beech Drive.
Brian Borshoff, who lives in Maple Acres, said he enjoys living in the quiet neighborhood, and he and his neighbors don’t want to see their older homes replaced by larger, more expensive ones, which is happening in several neighborhoods in central Carmel. He said he and his neighbors have felt helpless throughout the process, which he described as “under the radar.”
“The neighbors have had absolutely no input on what’s been going on,” Borshoff said during a virtual meeting June 11 between Story Cottage officials, city leaders and area residents to discuss the project.
Because Story Cottage is not requesting a zoning change or variance, the matter is not required to be discussed in a public meeting and neighbors are not required to be notified of the project. As long as the home does not have more than 10 occupants, it is considered residential by Carmel city code and does not require rezoning.
The State of Indiana considers group homes to be residences, not commercial properties, even if they are owned by a for-profit business. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides federal protection for group homes.
Carmel Director of Community Services Mike Hollibaugh, who said he initially believed Story Cottage was “not appropriate” for the site, said there is little the city can do to stop the project without going to court. He rejected the allegation that the city tried to hide the project from the neighborhood.
“We don’t have a choice unless the city wants to spend a lot of money on litigation costs because we’re violating the Fair Housing Act,” Hollibaugh said. “I don’t think there’s anything mysterious or hidden about it.”
The first Story Cottage home opened in July 2019 at 86th Street and N. Washington Boulevard in Indianapolis. Story Cottage President David Morgan said the project received little pushback and has been well received by neighbors since opening. He expected a similar response in Carmel.
“I’m shocked at this,” Morgan said. “If we just remodel a house, we can do (the project) tomorrow. I feel we’re giving a much better experience to the neighborhood by building a brand new house.”
Neighbors expressed concerns about the number of mature trees that will need to be removed and asked if the driveway could be moved to Carey Road instead of Beech Drive.
Morgan said the project includes 25 new trees, and he hopes to preserve as many existing trees as possible but that it will depend on the location of the driveway. He said the city engineer directed the driveway be on Beech Drive because putting it on Carey Road would place it too close to the roundabout at Carey and Smokey Row roads.
Morgan expects Story Cottage to appraise for $800,000 when complete. A 2,800-square-foot, 65-year-old house on the corner lot that appraised for $210,000 was demolished to make way for the project.
Morgan, a sixth-generation Carmel resident, said he selected the lot in Maple Acres because of its size and location on the edge of a neighborhood.
“Our goal is that this fits nicely into a residential setting,” he said.
He expects the home to fill quickly, mostly with residents who already live nearby. The cost to live at Story Cottage is $8,000 per month. The north Indianapolis location quickly generated a waitlist, and Morgan said he is looking to build additional Story Cottage facilities in Carmel or north Indianapolis.
Caregiving services will be provided by Senior Home Companions, which is also owned by Morgan. The Indianapolis-based company has been providing in-home care for more than 25 years. Other medical professionals are expected to visit the home a couple of times per week.
Learn more at storycottageliving.com.