The Carmel Plan Commission on Dec. 15 voted 8-1 in favor of rezoning the site of the Carmel Clay Historical Society from residential to mixed-use. If the city council votes to approve the rezone, it will leave a complaint-generating tavern just south of CCHS as the only parcel along the Monon Greenway in Carmel’s Midtown area with residential zoning.
Plan commissioner Alan Potasnik cast the lone vote against the rezone, saying he was concerned that a favorable vote could have unintended consequences.
“I don’t want to do something tonight that may come back and (a petitioner) say, ‘Well, this is the only one that’s not C2 (mixed-use) now. There’s no reason not to do it,’” he said.
Originally, the parcel housing The GOAT tavern also was part of the rezoning proposal. It was removed as city officials pursue alternate means to address neighbors’ complaints, which include urination on private property, littering and noise lasting until 3 a.m. or later.
The site formerly housed a cafe that received a use variance to operate only between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Director of Community Services Mike Hollibaugh previously acknowledged his department mistakenly overlooked that detail when approving plans for The GOAT. At the Dec. 15 meeting, he said construction on The GOAT began without approvals, a situation “that’s not unusual.”
“While we thought we had a plan to move forward and an agreement with the owner, it didn’t quite work out that way,” Hollibaugh said. “Ultimately, it put all of us in a tough spot, an embarrassing situation. That’s just not typical.”
Earlier this month, city officials reached a deal with the tavern’s owner to allow it to continue operating past 2 p.m. only if it meets a set of strict commitments and applies for a new variance. The Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to review the variance request in early 2021.
Hollibaugh said the long-term plan has long been to rezone the parcels that contain The GOAT and CCHS to mixed-use. But before that can happen, The GOAT must prove it can be a good neighbor, he said.
“The current set of commitments is going to be very helpful to the neighbors, and it’s going to be a tall order for the owner of The GOAT and that operation to perform well for the long term, unless he runs a really, really tight ship,” Hollibaugh said.
City councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider, who also serves on the plan commission, said he initially had concerns that rezoning The GOAT to mixed-use would make it more difficult to enforce commitments but has spoken to a legal expert who assured him that is not the case.
“At such a time that C2 (mixed-use) would be asked for, if the zoning variance is granted in January — and that’s an if — the restrictions would continue with the C2 zoning, and my guess is we would probably refine them because it would be a final zoning,” Rider said. “It would be scrutinized probably as much or more than we’ve ever scrutinized a rezone.”
The city council is expected to vote on the CCHS property rezone in January. CCHS is planning to build a museum and archive to replace an aging structure on the site.