Residents fight over how to protect older Carmel neighborhood

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By Jill Glavan

CARMEL, Ind. (Oct. 20, 2014) -- Homeowners in an older, affordable Carmel neighborhood near downtown fought Monday over how to protect themselves from new development.

A group of homeowners in the Johnson Addition, within walking distance of downtown Carmel, have been pushing to be designated a conservation district.

The distinction is similar to a historic neighborhood, but with less regulations. Homeowners only have to get permission from a commission to tear down, move or rebuild a house.

"We don't want the history of our neighborhood to change," homeowner Harriett Burns said.

At the helm of the fight is homeowner Mary Eckard. She presented the Carmel City Council with a petition, touting 54 of 95 residents in the affected areas' signatures.

Eckard pointed out that the same issue could affect other neighborhoods as Carmel continues its pattern of major growth and change.

"They can be a target at anytime and if they don’t have protection, whatever someone wants to build could be built," Eckard said.

The distinction is the first to be recommended by a historic preservation committee, established in 2011 in Carmel. It also highlighted more than half dozen other neighborhoods where the idea could be warranted.

Still, many homeowners who showed up at Monday's council meeting stood in opposition to the distinction, saying it would jeopardize their freedom on their own property and present more red tape.

"Let us do with it what we want," one homeowner said.

"Why can’t we just leave our neighborhood the way it is?" homeowner William Cummings said.

Eckard and others said they stand in support of the Mayor's new Midtown development plan, but didn't want such developments to affect their older homes. Johnson Addition homes date back to the 1950's. They said this distinction would keep their affordable option in Carmel intact.

"There's room for everybody and we don't want to be pushed aside so that it fills somebody else's vision," Eckard said.

The council moved the issue into a committee that will gather more information, with many councilors expressing a need to do more research.

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