The Carmel Plan Commission tabled a decision on a request to rezone the site of The GOAT restaurant and tavern from residential to business to give the petitioner and city planners additional time to discuss plans for the site.
During the Sept. 21 Carmel Plan Commission meeting, Carmel Planning Administrator Rachel Keesling said the city’s Dept. of Community Services could not support rezoning the site to B2, in part because of a lack of direct communication with the petitioner, incomplete information and a proposal that was modified multiple times.
“It makes it hard to know what to expect and how to review this when the request keeps changing and there isn’t much dialogue between the petitioner and staff,” Keesling said.
Keesling said city planners recommended the site be considered for rezoning to B7, which allows for fewer uses than B2 zoning. However, Tom Perkins, an attorney representing the owners of The GOAT, said he petitioned for B2 because a tavern is not a permitted use in B7 without a use variance.
Plan commissioners asked city planners to meet with representatives of The GOAT to review zoning options for the site and answer outstanding questions.
“Right now, staff is recommending not supporting B2, and to be fair to everybody, it needs to come back,” said Kevin “Woody” Rider, a city councilor and member of the plan commission. “I’m not trying to delay this or kick the can down the road, but we put a lot of confidence in staff.”
The site at 220 2nd St. SW previously housed Bub’s Cafe, which was permitted to operate there through a use variance limiting its hours to between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. City officials said they inadvertently overlooked the variance when they approved plans for the tavern, which opened in July 2020.
But The GOAT has been closed since April, when the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals denied a use variance to allow it to continue operating in a residentially zoned area, in part because some board members did not believe The GOAT had proven it could be a good neighbor. In the months after The GOAT opened, the city had received many complaints from neighbors, including loud noise levels into the night and patrons trespassing to urinate on adjacent property.
Complaints sharply decreased after owners of The GOAT agreed to a set of commitments regarding its operations, but it wasn’t enough to sway the BZA.
A Hamilton County judge ruled in July that the BZA violated Open Door Laws in the matter and ordered it to take another look at the use variance request, but the owners of The GOAT decided to pursue a rezone instead.
Tony Paganelli, an attorney representing the owners of The GOAT, said the rezone to B2 makes sense because it is as close to C2 zoning — which can only be initiated by the city — as possible. Paganelli noted that The GOAT is the only parcel in Carmel’s Midtown area along the Monon Greenway that is not zoned C2 or Planned Unit Development and that city officials have previously said the eventual plan is for the site to be rezoned to C2.
Paganelli acknowledged many troublesome issues occurred during The GOAT’s first months of operations, which happened when bars in Indianapolis were still tightly restricted by COVID-19 regulations, leading to more patrons than expected. He said those issues had been successfully addressed before the tavern was forced to close.
“All my client wants is to be treated like the other bar owners in Midtown Carmel and not to be singled out based on two or three months of behavior by patrons when they were caught unaware during a once-in-a-lifetime situation,” Paganelli said.
Several people spoke during the public hearing on the matter, both in support of and against the rezone.
Ben Keith, general manager at The GOAT, said the staff was not prepared to deal with the crowds in the tavern’s first months of operations but that several steps were taken to improve the situation.
“We don’t want to be a bad neighbor,” Keith said. “We just want to be open and put policies in place where everyone’s happy and everyone’s safe.”
Beth Agee, who lives near The GOAT, said safety is a concern as well. However, she said she felt unsafe when The GOAT was open. She said she was approached late at night by male patrons of The GOAT when she opened her back door.
“I was approached by multiple men. Luckily, I was able to leave the situation, but it was not a safe situation,” she said. “I do not want to have a fear of walking out my door and being afraid that somebody is going to attack me. These patrons were patrons of The GOAT, because it was late and night and because I asked.”
The plan commission’s next meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 19.