Carmel board rejects proposal to build seniors’ residence in residential area

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Update: The Carmel zoning appeal board voted unanimously against a proposal to build an aged care home in a residential area on the west side of Carmel, after more than a dozen residents be pronounced against.

Before the vote, BZA member James Hawkins and residents argued that the application called for heavy use of an area zoned for low-density residential purposes.

“It’s something the city council should be overseeing and not us,” Hawkins said.

City Council member Kevin “Woody” Rider also attended the meeting to oppose the proposal.

The BZA’s ‘no’ vote means Willow Haven Senior Homes will either have to find a new location, adjust their plans or seek a full rezoning.

Original story:

Some West Carmel residents have hired a lawyer and hundreds have signed a petition to try to stop the construction of a memory care home for the elderly in a residential neighborhood.

Willow Haven Senior Homes is applying to the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals for permission to build a 12-bed facility at 13145 West Road, Carmel, a property surrounded by low-density neighborhoods and residential land.

Typically, this wouldn’t be allowed in an S-1 residential zone — the lower-density residential zoning option — but Willow Haven Senior Homes is asking for an exception.

It’s a controversial request in a neighborhood of Carmel that’s known for its taller homes and spacious yards, and has long pushed back on projects that would increase density in any way.

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As a result, the Glen Oaks Property Owners Association hired Michael Andreoli, the same attorney who helped West Carmel residents fend off a West Side mosque project that ended up in court.

“This is a residential area with large lots and very nice properties and extremely low density,” Andreoli said, “and (the neighbors) feel like one of these facilities, a facility multi-bed, should be located in other areas such as multi-family or commercial.”

He also pointed out that if the owners of the facility are determined to open there, they should go through the Planning Commission and request a full rezoning, instead of pushing for a rezoning waiver.

Ease

Carmel has an increasingly aging population. Additionally, the city has both a higher percentage and number of seniors than other cities in Hamilton County, according to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

As these Carmel residents age, advocates for Willow Haven Senior Homes say they will need resources like this memory care home.

The Memory Care Home, which will provide housing and memory care assistance to seniors in need, will replace an existing older home on approximately 1.28 acres of land. The one-story facility will resemble a single-family home from the side of the street, according to the company’s zoning variance application, and will consist of brick, stone and siding.

The 6,203 square foot facility will feature 12 private rooms, in addition to a few common spaces. Only a 10 bed facility would qualify as a single family home and be permitted in the lot without any zoning variances.

As for residential location: This is intentional.

“The location of these memorial care homes in or near residential areas allows family and friends to visit residents more frequently,” Willow Haven Senior Homes LLC attorneys said in a letter, “and d interact with residents in a more traditional ‘domestic’ environment.”

They added that the decision to choose a residential location is part of a broader trend away from large complexes towards smaller, home-like facilities.

Neighbors’ concerns

Neighbors who oppose the facility say they would oppose any commercial activity, not just a seniors’ residence.

“As for me and the other residents of the area, we all moved to this place and paid large sums for our land and our houses because we wanted to have a certain distance between our houses and any commercial establishment, whatever his type,” explained a Glen Oak housing estate. Resident Robert Flint wrote to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

In a petition signed by hundreds of people, opponents say the facility will reduce property values ​​and “reduce our quality of life”. Some residents have mentioned in letters that the amount of traffic to the building — trucks dropping off supplies, specialists coming and going, and family visits — would be too much for the area, especially on the narrower roads.

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A resident also worried that ambulance visits would be frequent at a facility caring for aging patients with potential health issues and disrupt neighbors.

Letters from others in Hamilton County were mostly positive. For example, Mo Merhoff, president of the Fishers and Carmel OneZone Chamber of Commerce, said the facility would meet a “market need.”

“Our community, like many others, faces increasing needs for services for citizens with age-related memory impairments,” Merhoff said. “With this need comes the challenges associated with finding a real estate solution that creates, as best as possible, an environment that feels most like home.”

The BZA will take public testimony on Thursday evening and could vote on the proposal.

Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at (317) 432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.