Monday, February 20, 2012

Decatur Township - (Part 3 - More than a parking facility)

Like all neighborhoods of Marion County, Decatur Township has a unique blend of opportunities and challenges.  I have spoken to a number of neighborhood leaders throughout Indianapolis over the years, and almost all feel that their neighborhood is last on the City's list to be provided a leg up or assistance or much help dealing with their issues.  I conclude all are right.  If you are not downtown, you ARE last.  Unigov ensured that the resources of the non-downtown communities would be pooled to benefit downtown.  We all cover the cost of their City services, while their property tax revenues are spent on more benefits for downtown and favored developers.

Here is Decatur's profile.

Decatur has about 30,000 people.

Our Township is the smallest geographically; the eastern border follows the White River and not the same north-south dividing line used by other Townships.  The airport takes up at least 10 % of our land (latest info I have is from 1988, but that number would only have grown).  Our infrastructure, roads and sewers, have limited points of entry into our Township, unlike the other 8 Townships in the County.  The White River and the Airport substantially block access, and the areas of Hendricks and Morgan County that abut are largely farmlands with little infrastructure of their own.  There are only two roads over the White River, and no sewer crossings.  So, our development from farming to more intense land uses flows mostly from the north. 

Within I-465 we are pretty well all developed, with older homes, a small strip center, two grocery stores, two pharmacies, and a few fast food joints.  Outside I-465 is older subdivisions generally to the north, spreading to newer subdivisions and a great deal of remaining farmland to the south.  Little to no retail is located outside of I-465.

There is a railroad track running the length of Kentucky Avenue that has a huge impact on  our land use patterns.  Unlike other areas where it makes sense to have commercial nodes surrounded by residential uses, we are more laminar.  The existence of the airport dictates that few residences remain north of Kentucky Avenue outside of I-465.  The existence of the railroad dictates that when retail uses finally come in, they will mostly be located on the south side of Kentucky Avenue.  The remaining land is needed for homes.

Decatur has had a terrible time attracting retail.  This is somewhat due to our low population, but more notably due to the lack of rooftops on so much of Decatur land either occupied by the airport or anywhere near the airport.  This condition runs into Hendricks County as well.  When national chains do their analysis of market potential, they find no more than half the 360 degree view can ever be filled with the homes of customers, much less filled now.

This lack of retail is a chicken and egg thing.  Without the amenities of convenient shopping, many potential homeowners look elsewhere to live.  Decatur has only a tiny stock of move-up homes.

Just to round out the issues we face, we have mining at the north end, with Martin-Marietta blasting underground beneath the Southside Landfill that straddles the Wayne/Decatur line, and American Aggregates blasting and strip mining across the White River in Perry Township.  We have had no success engaging Mayor Ballard in the ill effects to our northern neighborhoods from the blasting and constant dust.

We have few sidewalks, few streetlights, a lot of septic tanks and wells.  We have one IndyGo bus route that reaches down as far as Ameriplex and returns to the north.  We are the only Township without a City Park's pool.  We have nothing to entertain the youth of the Township beyond school sponsored activities; no movie theaters, no bowling alleys, no skating rinks.  We have no bookstore, no place to buy a new shirt or new shoes.  We have two sit-down restaurants that bring you a menu; a Denny's and an El Rodeo.  We do have two golf courses, though; Buffer Park on the northeast and Winding River on the southeast.  And, through the combined efforts of our Lions Club and 4-H, we host the State's largest annual Township Fair.

Looking back through the Decatur history that I am aware of, it seems that what we do have are great people who have created the progress that we have enjoyed.  When Goldsmith turned a deaf ear to Hi-Acre Manor over the absolute need for a levee to protect their homes from the White River, the neighbors banded together and built their own.  Once a really bad zoning request had been defeated, the community banded together to raise the money to buy that property and add it to Southwestway Park.  And currently ongoing, the community is banding together yet again, to fund the Goodwin Center that focuses on Head Start and a much needed Senior Center.

Also to be noted in that list of accomplishments by the people who live in Decatur, is the existence of Ameriplex itself.  As I mentioned in the last post ("The 800 Pound Gorilla - Indianapolis Airport"), our Civic leaders hoped to create an industrial park to provide a catalyst for growth throughout Decatur.  It is a point of immense personal pride that I am part of the Decatur Township Civic Council, with its legacy of always trying to move Decatur forward.  Back in 1993, leaders of the Civic Council, including Bob Cockrum, Betty Montgomery, and Ken Bartlett undertook a study of the effects of an industrial park, the United deal, a third runway, and the TIF district on our Township's development and its taxbase.   They were not successful in staving off the ill effects of the Airport/United TIF, nor the airport's land grab to ensure a future 3rd runway totally in Decatur for exclusive use by FedEx.  But, they were successful in helping to get an interchange on I-70 and the establishment of Ameriplex itself.

I have lived in the heart of a big city.  And it was great.  I have lived in Decatur Township for the past 25 years now, and I find it equally great.  We have the best of all worlds (outside of access to retail) - the relaxing atmosphere of a semi-rural semi-suburban lifestyle that is 20 minutes from downtown.  And the people of Decatur cannot be beat.

[Yesterday's Zoning Case - It About Far More Than a ParkingFacility, The 800 Pound Gorilla]

No comments: