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Carmel city council swiftly bans public urination, defecation in response to complaints in Midtown

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The Carmel City Council on Dec. 7 unanimously approved an ordinance that prohibits urinating and defecating in public places in response to recent complaints in the city’s Midtown area.

Mayor Jim Brainard

Mayor Jim Brainard

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the ordinance is needed to give police additional tools to stop and prevent these types of behaviors as the city’s central core redevelops to attract more of a late-night crowd, but some city councilors said the ordinance — and others in the works — are only being proposed because of problems stemming from a single tavern.

The GOAT tavern opened in mid-August at 220 2nd St. SW, and almost immediately city councilors and the Carmel Police Dept. began receiving complaints about noise and eventually about tavern patrons urinating, vomiting, hooking up and littering on adjacent private property. Between Aug. 15 and Nov. 25, Carmel police have responded to The GOAT more than 80 times.

To further complicate the situation, The GOAT is operating in a residentially zoned area. When approving plans for the tavern, the city’s Dept. of Community services missed the fact that the variance allowing a restaurant on the site expired when it was no longer used as a cafe.

Brainard said in September the city assembled a task force of representatives from the city’s police, fire, IT and community services departments as well as the Hamilton County Health Dept. and Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to address the matter.

Hannon

City councilor Tim Hannon described the city’s response as a “Herculean effort” and questioned how the zoning mistake was made.

“From the medical standpoint, this is the equivalent of wrong-site surgery or leaving a sponge in someone,” said Hannon, an anesthesiologist.

Brainard said the previous variance for the site was tied to the land, not the previous owner, meaning it would have still been in effect if the building remained a restaurant that closed at 2 p.m. He said the planning department missed this detail when approving plans for The GOAT.

In addition to the ordinance approved Dec. 7, the council is considering an amendment to its noise ordinance that would address issues stemming from The GOAT. The planning department has also petitioned to rezone The GOAT and the Carmel Clay Historical Society property to the north from residential to mixed-use zoning.

“We’ll continue to make what I refer to as small, incremental changes that make this compatible with the other businesses that are operating under the same rules successfully without complaint in that neighborhood,” Brainard said.

Some councilors, however, said they aren’t fully in favor of that plan. Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider, who has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, said he isn’t in favor of rezoning the property, which would essentially permit some of the problems neighbors have been reporting. He said the tavern’s owner should be taking more steps to be a “good corporate citizen” and address the issues without city intervention.

“When people come into your bar after midnight and you just blindly serve them, and their employees go next door and pee (on private property) because they don’t want to wait in line to get back to work, that’s just bad operation,” Rider said. “It’s not being run properly. It has nothing to do with the ordinances we want to pass or a rezone. A rezone right now would be a terrible idea. It would make them legal.”

Councilor Adam Aasen said he’s received complaints about The GOAT as recently as this weekend and that he is concerned by the lack of response from the tavern’s owners.

“It almost appears they’re trying to antagonize the neighbors with noise,” Aasen said. “We have in committee a noise ordinance to pass these rules, but the attitude I’m seeing is a defiant attitude almost, and that’s disappointing.”

Current has reached out to the owners of The GOAT for comment.

Outlining the ordinance

  • What does the ordinance state?
    The ordinance, which was approved on first reading, prohibits people who are eight years and older from urinating or defecating in a public place, which is defined as property generally visible to the public. It includes streets, sidewalks, bridges, alleys, driveways, parking lots and more.
  • Isn’t this already illegal?
    Technically, yes. Indecency laws cover urinating and defecating in public, but an officer would typically have to see the act occur. The city’s ordinance has a lesser burden of proof, meaning that photos or videos are sufficient evidence of a violation.
  • What is the consequence of violating the ordinance?
    A first offense is punishable by a fine of $250 with subsequent offenses coming with a $2,500 fine.
  • Why are those 7 and younger exempt?
    The city wanted to ensure that a person changing a child’s diaper or that a young child who may not know better would not be in violation of the ordinance.

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