Thursday, July 28, 2011

BZA Decisions Impact Our Community In Tangible Ways - Parking In Broad Ripple

You know, we have zoning development standards for a reason - to make our City a well functioning, attractive, and structurally safe place to live and work.  Unfortunately for our City, the Boards of Zoning Appeals give out variances at head spinning percentages.  A study of variance petitions passing through the BZAs during 2009 demonstrated that of 245 variance petitions filed, 223 were approved - for a numbing 91% approval rate.  If you have the money for the filing fee, you are pretty much assured of getting your variance.

But, the community loses in this race to the bottom.  If a law needs to be changed, then change it so that everyone is abiding by the same laws. This onslaught of poor decisions on variances year after year causes an erosion in our zoning laws, creates havoc in enforcing them, and throws out all efforts a reasoned planning for a great City.

As regular readers of my blog know, I have been looking into just how many required parking spaces have been waived by the decisions of the Boards of Zoning Appeals (see "BZA Decisions Contributed Mightily To Broad Ripple Parking Situation", and, "Broad Ripple Parking - More BZA Decisions Noted - Running Total 320")  Today I will report the latest tally of parking space variances granted for Broad Ripple going back to 1979.

Before I wade into the methods and results, I want to specifically thank Heather Stephan of Current Planning, who pulled several dozen documents for me in record time.  I also need to acknowledge that the entire linkage between BZA decisions and any perception of parking insufficiency in Broad Ripple came from BR resident and community activist, Clarke Kahlo.

I searched the City's Accela website for variances filed for any property within the area bounded by 62nd to the south, 64th to the north, N. College to the west, and N. Winthrop to the east.  As I noted in a previous blog, I could turn up no results of any kind for Broad Ripple Ave, likely due to its two-word name.  As luck would have it, there is a current variance being requested at 829 Broad Ripple.  Melanie Mullens, Senior Planner for Current Planning, had gathered a list of previous variances filed in the area, as part of her usual due diligence.  I obtained further variances from her list.

Using this master list, I requested a copy of the letter of 'Grant of Variance' for all those I had indication were actually approved.  From this letter I hoped to gather the number of parking spaces approved and the number required by ordinance.  The number waived would be determined by simply subtracting the number approved by the variance from the number required under the ordinance.

I found 41 variances filed asking for a waiver of the required number of parking places since 1979.  One was withdrawn, two were dismissed (which usually happens due to prolonged lack of interest of the petitioner), and 38 were approved.  None were denied.

Location of Variances found in the Broad Ripple area

The letter of Grant of Variance did not include the number of spaces required for 9 variances granted between 1979 and 1994, but did indicate a waiver of some number was approved.  So, the number of waived parking spaces I could obtain is merely a minimum.

That left 29 variances granted for 22 addresses since 1987.  I assumed that when there were two variances for the same address, the latest one reflected the totals for that address.

The 22 variances granted a waiver of a grand total of (drumroll, please) 646 parking spaces in this area of Broad Ripple.


646 parking spaces waived in a couple block area of a busy night spot.  These variances brought the number of parking spaces required by ordinance, which totaled 912 for these addresses, and waived 71% of them.   Instead of 912 spaces, the variances said it was okay to provide only 266.

I can hear them now : "Don't need no stinkin' parking in Broad Ripple !!!  Of course you can have your waiver, good sir !!!"

Clearly, the decisions of the BZAs have led to whatever need there might be for parking in Broad Ripple.  The residents have suffered the consequences every weekend late night for some time.  Now, the taxpayers are suffering the consequences.


Blog Admin said...

Don't forget the 100+waiver Kilroy's will be asking for in August.

Had Enough Indy? said...

For the sake of accuracy, the current petition would replace a waiver of 62 parking spaces with a waiver of 82 spaces.

At some point, waiving parking spaces must sink in as not being of benefit to the community.

How about this - they kick in the cost to the taxpayers of 20 parking spaces in the new garage? That would be $362,000. If you accept the total cost of the parking garage to be $15 m, then the tab comes to $857,000.

Anonymous said...

I think you're missing the question of whether any business could operate at a given location in any form without a parking variance. Broad Ripple, like most of the older commercial areas in Indianapolis were developed in an era when parking was unnecessary, because there were few automobiles. Conversely, the current parking requirements, to avoid a variance request, assume that your business is being developed in a cornfield. If there had been no variances granted over the period you're explored, is there any reason to believe there would be any commercial entities in Broad Ripple?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Of course there would be businesses there. They just would have to provide the parking. Instead of the residents' spots getting used and now the taxpayers paying to make new spots.

They could have created underground parking, just as one for instance.

If they think they can get a pass on a regulation, they'll do it. That's what been happening.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon said,

"Broad Ripple, like most of the older commercial areas in Indianapolis were developed in an era when parking was unnecessary, because there were few automobiles."

Exactly when do you think Broad Ripple really developed...the 19th Century? Do you think Broad Ripple was built for the horse and buggy era? Do you think people were walking? Your time frame is way off. Broad Ripple grew up around the automobile.

Anonymous said...

fire the bza and start over. enough is enough. its all about party time for young people and bikers making noise so i cant sleep at 2pm. there is no peace in the neighbor hood any more

Anonymous said...

find me three businesses on Broad Ripple Ave between College and Winthrop. that don't have a parking variance.

Anonymous said...

What you're saying, of course, is that these buildings should never have been built with such density, and, if we followed the current zoning structure, they couldn't have been built the way they are. While it's true that a lot of Broad Ripple was built in the era of the automobile, they weren't built in the era of the modern automobile, and certainly not in an era when most people owned a couple of them. In fact the last time public transportation worked well in Indianapolis, it worked because people without autos were willing to pay to ride trolleys from the inner city to Broad Ripple and Meridian Kesler.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 8:27 -- the variances from which I could get # of spaces waived, reach back to 1987. The interurban was long gone by then. The earliest I could even locate that mentions parking was 1979 - hardly the whip and buggy days.

No, these spaces were waived during a time that we all should have known better.

Anonymous said...

You're still missing the point. Every time a portion of a building changed use, it required a new variance. Unless you've somehow decided that 1987 was some magical point in time when Broad Ripple was 'perfect,' it's safe to assume that variances occurred all the way back to the time when they weren't required. If you say no new variance should be permitted after some period in time, use of the space is eliminated for places that don't have zoning acceptable parking, and none do. It's really the form of the building that creates the problem, but, I'm guessing you, like the folks in Broad Ripple who're developing their form based code, actually want that form of building, and expect it to be used. The trick, I suspect, is to create a zoning code that reflects the unavailability of parking so that a variance is requires in only truly egregious circumstances. Or, perhaps you secretly desire to live in Carmel?

Anonymous said...

What happened to the coverage of MSD Decatur schools? Did they clean up their act? School starts tomorrow.....all wonderful and good?