Carmel council could close loophole allowing new gas stations in WestClay


Just weeks after the Carmel City Council approved an ordinance banning new gas stations within 500 feet of residential areas and schools, another gas station has been proposed within those parameters in the Village of WestClay. 

The expansive neighborhood — whose residents prompted the ordinance after another gas station was previously proposed on the same site — is exempt from the new law because it is a planned unit development, meaning it has its own set of development rules as approved by the city council in 1999. It’s the only PUD in Carmel that allows gas stations, but that could soon change.

The city council is set to vote on a resolution at its Nov. 1 meeting directing the Carmel Plan Commission to amend the Village of WestClay PUD ordinance to remove the sale of gasoline as a permitted use in the district. The resolution also directs the plan commission to hold a public hearing on the change — as required by state law — within 30 days. 

Carmel City Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said the council’s intent in approving the ordinance that bans new gas stations near residential areas was to protect all residents from the potential negative health effects of benzene and other chemicals associated with gas stations.

“(The WestClay PUD) was approved 20 years ago,” said Rider, a co-sponsor of the resolution. “Science has changed.”  

Rider also said the proposed resolution is not in response to the new gas station.  

Until the PUD is updated, plans for the proposed eight-bay gas station and convenience store at Harleston and Towne roads can move forward. The site is adjacent to homes and near the Stratford senior living facility. 

The health impact of living near gasoline tanks isn’t the only concern of nearby residents this time around. The gas station would be run by Indy Holdings, LLC, whose co-owner, Lakhwant Singh of Indianapolis, was charged with several felony counts in March 2020 for selling fake Viagra pills at multiple gas stations his company owns in Madison and Marion counties. 

Singh signed an agreement for withheld prosecution in March that states if he paid fees and court costs and does not violate any laws within a year, the charges will be dropped. 

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said he offered the agreement because the charges brought by the Indiana Excise Police seemed inconsistent with how similar situations had previously been handled. He said Singh had already likely lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, lawyer fees and having his business shut down for a time.

“It seemed he had paid a heavy price already for (selling) fake Viagra,” Cummings said. 

Singh did not respond to requests for comment as of press time. 

The Village of WestClay board of directors addressed the proposed gas station and legal proceedings regarding Indy Holdings in an Oct. 26 email to residents. 

“No provision of the WestClay Organizational Documents and Covenants vests authority in the Board of Directors to inquire into or base a decision on a personal judgment as to the ‘character’ of persons who choose to purchase property and to transact business in WestClay,” the email stated. “We are hopeful Indy Holdings, LLC will schedule a meeting with Village residents to answer questions directly.”