The Carmel City Council on Monday night approved new rules for how the city procures its public art. The council also gave a narrow OK to the establishment of a special zoning district for the Courtyards of Carmel, a proposed 149-home development.

Public art authority

Previously, the Carmel Public Art Advisory Committee’s authority over new public art was limited to input on that art’s location. After a community backlash regarding the process and several announced new purchases, the city council voted to expand the review process to allow the committee to weigh in on whether a piece of art costing more than $5,000 should be purchased in the first place.

“We have modified the existing ordinance to bring in some additional responsibility for the committee, to not only look at the location, but also to look at the purchase of the artwork before the mayor makes that acquisition,” council member Jeff Worrell said.

The ordinance requires the committee be given notice at least 60 days prior to the mayor’s purchase. The council-appointed committee would then be afforded the opportunity to comment and provide input on the art and its location.

Previously, Brainard said his policy is to rely on consultants and internal staff with experience in landscape architecture. The committee’s final votes will result in recommendations, not mandates. The mayor will retain full and final authority over the purchase of public art and where it goes.

Courtyards of Carmel project

Ohio-based Epcon Communities is moving ahead with its proposed age-restricted neighborhood at the northeast corner of Keystone Parkway and 136th Street, after a narrow approval by the council. The council voted 5-4 to establish a special planned unit zoning district for the Courtyards of Carmel, with council members Tony Green, Bruce Kimball, Miles Nelson and Tim Hannon opposed.

The project is planned for a 59-acre site near Carmel High School.

Since introducing the project in July, Epcon has reduced the proposed number of single-family homes from 169 to 149 and agreed to build a right- turn bypass lane from northbound Keystone onto 136th Street.

That $450,000 ramp improvement project could be reimbursed by the project’s increased assessed value if the council decides to issue the developer a tax increment financing bond at a later date.

Worrell noted the plan’s density was much lower than projects previously proposed and approved on the site, and the expected average home price of $475,000 will likely be a benefit to the area. He also questioned whether project’s increased traffic in an already-busy area would be as bad as neighbors thought, since residents at the Courtyards of Carmel will be 55 or older and would likely make fewer trips.

He said his only concern was with the homes’ orientations.

“These homes, because of the way they’re designed with interior courtyards, do have the mechanicals on the back,” Worrell said. “The screen became the big deal.”

Council member Kevin Rider said Epcon has made a lot of promises, and he intends for them to keep those promises.

“We will be watching,” Rider said.

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