What: Ruling on Mann’s request for rezoning the Crown Hill property
When: March 21, 2007, at 1 p.m.
Where: Public Assembly room of the City-County Building at 200 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis developer Mann Properties wants to buy land from Crown Hill Cemetery and replace 70 acres of mostly woodlands and wetlands with a retail strip and more than 300 townhouses and single-family dwellings.
In order to do so, Mann must get the zoning of the land changed from its current cemetery classification to the planned unit development classification. Department of Metropolitan Development case number 2006-ZON-093 is Mann’s petition to do just that.
Charged with deciding whether to grant that request, and every other zoning change, are the members of the Metropolitan Development Commission — a nine-member board comprised of volunteers appointed by the mayor, the City-County Council and the Board of County Commissioners. Aiding the commissioners are DMD staff who consider each rezoning request due to come before the commission and recommend either approval or denial of each case. In the case of the Mann petition, staff recommended that the petition be approved, subject to some adjustments.
Staff recommendations for approval are the norm at the DMD. In the past four-and-a-half months (the time frame for which reports are available online at www.indygov.org/eGov/City/DMD/Planning/Zoning/Reports/mdc.htm), 129 zoning cases made it onto the commission’s hearing schedule. Nearly 90 percent of those petitions (115) are what the DMD terms “Petitions of No Appeals,” requests for rezoning that the staff recommends be approved and to which no one has lodged an objection. Records show that staff recommended denying a rezoning request in just six of the 129 cases — just under 5 percent.
And though a staff recommendation for approval is nearly a guarantee that the commission will grant the request, in just one case did a staff recommendation of denial result in a petition being turned down. In one instance a request was denied despite a staff recommendation for approval, and in two cases, petitions that staff recommended be denied ultimately were approved.
Staff reports lay out the issues the DMD considers in the recommendation for approval or denial, but they include no information on the views of opponents. The commissioners who vote to approve or deny rezoning requests receive the staff report and can view case files before their twice-monthly public meetings, but unless a commissioner takes the time to physically go through the case file, he or she may have no idea that anyone objects to the rezoning request. The commissioners’ decisions “are to be based on what is heard in the public meeting and information in the staff report,” according to Anne Coffey, public information officer for DMD. Commissioners aren’t allowed to speak about pending cases prior to hearings, so the only opportunity opponents have to state their objections is during actual commission meetings.
The Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors (www.allianceofcrownhillneighbors.org) serves as the umbrella organization promoting preservation of the woods and wetlands on the Crown Hill land and opposing the Mann petition to rezone the land for development. Alliance supporters include dozens of local organizations from neighborhood associations (including the governing Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association and the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations) to the Christian Theological Seminary Student Council to the Amos W. Butler Audubon Society to scores of individuals who have written letters to the commissioners, Mayor Peterson and City-County Council President Monroe Grey, who also is the representative for the neighborhood.
These opponents plan to take their case to the commission when it is expected to make its ruling on Mann’s request for rezoning the Crown Hill property March 21, 2007, at 1 p.m. in the Public Assembly room of the City-County Building at 200 E. Washington St.