Finally, after 2 years of work, Indy Rezone is setting up public meetings to release some of their future plans for reforming our zoning code. This is absolutely critical work.
What are you hoping to see from this presentation?
I’m not familiar with any of the details of the existing zoning regulations, but I’d really like to see a huge relaxation on suburban style development requirements for parts of the city. Indy desperately needs to become far more dense for the existing land area if it’s ever going to be able to continue to fund basic city services such as infrastructure. It’s becoming very obvious that Indy has a huge crumbling and inadequate infrastructure crisis and one of the major ways to correct this is to increase the tax base through added density while not having to raise property taxes on anyone.
They also need to think about relaxing many of the zoning regulations and streamline the process required to start renovation and new development of existing areas in the city while keeping sensible requirements in place.
People usually tout Unigov as a huge win for Indy but I’ve seen the infrastructure issues you bring up as a long-term loss related to Unigov. Basically, all parts of Indianapolis, from the cornfields of Franklin Township to the core in Center Township get treated as equals, which is just ludicrous.
I don’t think Unigov is sustainable over the next 50 years. I’ve got to imagine the miles of X (X = roadway, sewer pipe, etc) per capita in the surrounding townships has to be extremely high compared to Center. If Unigov didn’t exist, you have to imagine major parts of Marion County would still be on well water and septic tanks, which would be a good thing.
I don’t think your vision of what Marion County would have been like without Uni-Gov is one that is based on any facts. Look at many metropolitan areas that did not engage in a city-county consolidation and you still see the same amount of sprawl–and then some. St. Louis broke away from the rest of St. Louis County in 1877, a sort of reverse consolidation, and yet one finds urban sprawl in the St. Louis metro-area way out to the very fringes. Cleaveland and other older Midwestern cities also never consolidated with their surrounding county, and yet you see the same sprawl.
Without Uni-Gov, Indianapolis would be an aging, smaller, and less important city. Not that Uni-Gov has brought all good things to the Indianapolis, but I don’t think anyone has made a credible argument that the city would have been better off.
I think the things you said apply – at this point in time. For the future (and this is just conjecture, obviously), I see the urban core growing and improving but it will still have to support the stagnant donut townships.
What happens in Marion County as the outer townships need new sewers or water pipes in the next 25-50 years? That is where the X per capita calculations are going to kill us. Especially when the next round of infrastructure update doesn’t get to go through green fields and has to go through yards and roads and whatnot. If they were separate from Indy proper, they would be on the hook themselves, but since they aren’t, they can demand and vote in whoever will take care of their exorbitant needs.
Do you think Mayor Ballard would have to be putting the city into hock to pay for sidewalks and basic infrastructure if it was the old city bounds? I really don’t think so. Would rural areas out by Acton be on city water/sewer with the old city bounds? I really don’t think so.
With regards to St. Louis, yeah, they still had sprawl (same as Indy), but downtown St. Louis isn’t on the hook for future demands of St. Louis County like Indianapolis is on the hook for the rest of Marion County. Unfortunately, a likely scenario is that St. Louis County will merge with St. Louis and they’ll be stuck like Indy.
Like I said, the cracks are starting to show, but it will still be a while before we get full-fledged failure. We’ll see, I guess.
ahow268: yes, that is exactly the right point. It’s not that Unigov created the sprawl (I think cities developing during the time of cars and Interstates and great prosperity did that) and that it’s unique to Indy, it clearly isn’t, but what it did do and continues to do is exactly what you said – creates an unsustainable mega county with extremely low density. There aren’t enough people to maintain the sewers, roads and other basic city infrastructure needs! It’s that simple. The only way out of this is to reduce the size of Marion county, or hope and pray that we get a huge influx of people and the density of Marion county increases many fold.
The Urbanophile had an interesting take on UniGov and infrastructure in the outer areas of Marion Co. On the west side, outside of Speedway many built up areas are still without sidewalks and curb/gutter. If these places were independent municipalities that were smaller and more focused, Lawrence as another example, maybe these areas turn out better.
All UniGov is is an administrative function. It’s not a smart growth technique or even a means to good design or community involvement. More efficient, but not better.
I agree with your comment except for one thing. I would take issue that Unigov is even more efficient. I propose that it’s less efficient by a long shot. Think about how much time and effort is wasted by so many countless individuals and companies because of the bigger bureau that is Unigov now vs before when it was a smaller entity. Unigov is in charge of more net land, more net infrastructure, more of everything. This means more burden on one central authority and so more waiting and less money to get things done. If Unigov had brought with it a much more dense Marion county, this might be different.
I’d like to see gas stations more tightly restricted so that they aren’t opening on every other vacant commercial corner in Center Township, further driving down the value of adjacent residential properties. Not sure whether that will happen, since the only relevant document I’ve been able to find is this use table, which shows that gas stations will be allowed in even more districts than currently permitted, but doesn’t indicate what development standards they will be required to meet.
There do look to be some promising regulations here relegating parking lots to the side/rear of buildings and requiring doors and windows on the fronts of commercial buildings in these newly proposed (or relabeled) mixed-use districts. The downside is that I doubt they are going to apply these new districts onto existing sites. By and large, they’ll probably only get applied if a property owner volunteers to rezone to these districts, but since they don’t seem to have released most of the proposals, it’s a little hard to holistically judge the whole effort one way or the other.
The below link appears to show the extent of the proposals that have been released. I’d love to see if they are making any changes to the development standards of the C-3, C-4 and C-5 districts that govern the vast majority of commercial properties throughout the county today.
Agree with Paul on gas stations. New ones, or substantial refits, should not be allowed adjacent to single-family residential uses.
The revised draft now indicates gas stations would no longer be permitted in C-3, but would be permitted by grant of special exception in the new MU-2 (which is currently the C-3C) and MU-3 districts.
Not sure why they’d add gas stations to C-3C, which has never permitted them before and has always been more restrictive on intensity of uses permitted than C-3.
I am of the opinion that gas station/c-stores are “more like” the list of C-5 uses today that belong on major thoroughfares and shouldn’t be mixed with neighborhood commercial without a special exception or variance.
Here’s the Indy Rezone public draft.
Did a brief scan of the parking requirements and ended up being very disappointed. Buffalo, NY, is making parking requirements optional, Cincinnati is reducing their list and adding significant exemptions and reductions and Indy is proposing to do very little. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising since they’re not a Form-Based Code city, but the info on the Indy Rezone website is all that planner speak everyone agrees with but when it comes to what’s actually required, very little work has been done to eliminate, reduce and subvert parking. Same old Indy.
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