Haverstick, The Alexander, & Kite

At the March 12 Full Council meeting, I will be calling down the following zoning case #2016-ZON-020 at the direct request of the Nora-Northside Community Council, Inc (NCC) and with the support of the Nora Alliance. I have included both NCC’s formal request from President Ruth Hayes, as well as Nora Alliance’s formal motion in support of calling down the proposal. I will be happy to discuss the particulars with any of you and have summarized the land use situation.

The heavily wooded parcel in question (at the NE corner of Haverstick and 86th street – one block West of Keystone) was purchased by Keystone Construction in 2010. It carries a D-P zoning designation that was granted in 2005, which authorizes a 66,000 square foot big-box store (grocery, etc), a near-clear cutting of trees (27 to remain), expansive surface parking and 31 large condos (referenced as the “Kite project” for ease of discussion). While Nora fought a protracted legal battle with Indianapolis to revoke or modify this zoning, they were summarily unsuccessful. There is no remaining legal leverage with which to fight the current zoning designation. The process of filing paperwork to obtain permits for the Kite project has begun.

As an alternative to the Kite project, Keystone proposed The Alexander Project to the NCC Land Use Committee, seeking to rezone the parcel from D-P to MU-3. NCC opposed the proposal (vote was 9-2 with 2 abstentions). The re-zoning petition was subsequently denied October 4, 2017 by the MDC (2016-ZON-020; vote was 5-3). A clerical error by City planning staff, certifying the wrong portion/version of the Alexander Project, now requires recertification, which will come before the Full Council March 12. This allows for the ability to call it down for a final attempt at negotiation between Keystone and NCC. When I confirmed this unusual circumstance with DMD, I immediately contacted NCC to give them options. They had been gravely concerned that Keystone had resurrected the Kite project and they decided to call-down the proposal in hopes that the Alexander could be renegotiated to give the neighborhood a lower-impact development option (while saving a large portion of trees and drainage areas).

NCC is hopeful that an agreement can be reached with Keystone. In this case, the Full Council will be asked to vote on this agreement at the April Full Council meeting en lieu of a full hearing.

Neighborhood objectives:

  • keep as many trees on the property as possible
  • prioritize drainage through keeping natural existing drainage mechanisms in-tact while adding underground storm water storage
  • minimize traffic impact and emphasize public safety through safe pedestrian crossings, improved infrastructure, stoplight timing, etc
  • enhance or secure adjacent property values with the highest quality development possible
  • potentially shrink the footprint of the structure, thus reducing the parking lot pavement

You will likely see impassioned messages and pleas on social media from parties who do not fully understand the facts of the case.The facts are clear – this is a privately held parcel with in-place zoning. In other words, this is not another Crown Hill where social protest can stop development. The choice is not between development and no development (as #SaveHaverstickWoods implies). The choice, as laid-out time and again by the developer, is between two potential developments. Should efforts at re-negotiation with the developer be thwarted by the proponents of “no development,” the neighborhood will be powerless to prevent the Kite project and the general clear-cutting of the trees (minus 27). Deputy Mayor Bennett and DMD Director Emily Mack have independently confirmed that there is no legal recourse for NCC to prevent Keystone from developing the Kite project.

Ironically, a non-resident group advocating to “save the forest” by preventing this call-down would almost assuredly guarantee its destruction if successful.  

Complicating this is that some residents of Drifthood Hills (DH), the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the parcel, do not support the call-down process. While they are represented by Nora CC in LUD issues, a group of neighbors has come out against Nora CC’s decision. Technically, Karen Hamilton is still the Driftwood Hills NA (DHNA) President and she supports the call-down (she is also the long-standing VP of Nora CC). Kris Matel, who is acting as the voice of the neighborhood opposition, also sits on the Nora Alliance Board, which also supports the call-down. After lengthy discussion with these Driftwood Hills neighbors, it is my understanding that DHNA thinks that they will be able to successfully negotiate directly with Keystone outside of the call-down process. They have retained outside counsel for such purposes (Russell Sipes). Given the call-down process about to take place, all negotiations with Keystone will have to be done with the NA of record, NCC. Any negotiations outside of this would not be ratified by the Council. Even if Keystone were inclined to negotiate directly with DHNA, they would have to go through Nora (and DMD) in order to actually build whatever is negotiated. 
Calling the proposal down for further negotiation attempts is the best way for the neighborhood to reach an acceptable agreement with the developer and save as many trees as possible. Stay tuned!