Debate marks division over Broad Ripple development

Story and photo by Paul F. P. Pogue

Broad Ripple resident Amy Fisher describes the poor condition of nearby residences, which are now scheduled to be bulldozed to make way for a 28-unit condo.

City-County Council Vice President Joanne Sanders was perhaps understating the problem Monday night when she described the tension between proponents and opponents of a condo development in Broad Ripple: "Both sides have a compelling interest in the success of the Broad Ripple area. Each side defines that success a little differently."

Speakers on both sides of the debate presented images of the Winthrop Avenue area so at odds with each other that they might as well have described alternate universes. Actual residents of the properties in question were not on hand to speak one way or another.

The background: Developers Kosene & Kosene petitioned for and received a rezoning of 1.43 acres in the 6100 block of Winthrop Avenue in the Broad Ripple area, allowing them to bulldoze four of the five rental properties currently on site in favor of building a three-story, 28-unit condominium. A coalition of Broad Ripple neighborhood groups appealed the Department of Metropolitan Development's decision up to the council, where it was the subject of a spirited debate.

The final vote was 13 in favor of upholding, 14 to overturn, but since a two-thirds majority is required to overturn such a decision, it fell short of the 18 votes needed.

Steve Mears, attorney for developers Kosene & Kosene, laid out the expected benefits of the plan: a significant improvement in the appearance of the area, an increase in the tax base of the site from about $4,000 to $143,000 per year and 78 new parking spaces.

Mears said that the opponents were acting out of fear of change.

"There's over 5,000 people that reside in the Broad Ripple area, and yet we have tended to have a small group of people, who are very vocal, who object to any and all upgrading of the Broad Ripple area," Mears said. "They basically want to keep it exactly as it is."

Amy Fisher, whose residence borders the site in question, painted a grim picture of unkempt homes, vacant lots, rodents and piles of trash.

"This is disgusting to observe and a blight to Broad Ripple as a whole," Fisher said. "As the number of rentals grow and the upkeep declines, so do the caliber of the renters. We have witnessed unoccupied properties that attract loiterers and rough-looking teen-agers in the middle of the day."

Opponents say that this development will harm the character and nature of Broad Ripple. Karen Brogan of the Greater Broad Ripple Community Coalition said she opposed the plan because it violated the long-term plan for Broad Ripple by allowing overly dense development, and that instead of helping parking, the new traffic would create snarl.

"The problem is 75 cars going in and out of Winthrop," Brogan said. "Those cars are not flying in there. This is a small street. Nobody wants to wake up to a traffic jam in the morning ... The long-range plan has worked well in maintaining the character and development of our neighborhood and limiting overdevelopment."

She also rebutted talk of the area's poor condition.

"I am stunned," Brogan said. "I drive Winthrop every day. We haven't seen any of this trash. We checked. We called code enforcement. We called health and hospital. Not one complaint has ever been made about these properties."

Other arguments by the opposition included that it would set a dangerous precedent for overdevelopment around Indianapolis, break tradition with bumper zones near greenways such as the nearby Monon Trail and that Mears' numbers concerning the tax base were distorted.

There was some talk of whether the sides could negotiate, but a previous attempt to negotiate a compromise had broken down and speakers for both agreed that with the developers asking for 28 units and the opposition proposing 10, there was no room to work.

"I'm afraid that our position at this time is that we've done everything we can to work with the developer and there's no willingness on his part to work with us," Ellen Morley Matthews, president of the Broad Ripple Village Association, said.

"We're just so far apart that there's no way we can reach a common ground," Mears said.


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