Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Zoning and Variance Decisions

If you could afford to file a rezoning petition for your property this year, you stood an 89% chance of having it approved.  If you could afford to file a variance petition this year, you stood an 86% chance of it being approved.


Of all 100 zoning petitions decided in 2014, 89 were approved, 2 denied, and 9 withdrawn (89% approved, 2% denied, and 9% withdrawn).

Most rezoning petitions are assigned to the Hearing Examiner, with some going to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission for their first hearing.  A small number are sent directly to the Metropolitan Development Commission by the HE for their initial hearing.  Any side of a contested petition can appeal the HE's or IHPC's decision to the MDC.

The HE made 77 decisions on zoning petitions in 2014 - 68 approved, 2 denied, and 7 withdrawn - otherwise 88% approved, 3% denied, and 9% withdrawn.

The IHPC cast decisions on 11 zoning petitions in 2014 - all were approved.

The MDC held initial hearings on 7 petitions and accepted the withdrawal of 1 petition prior to hearing.  All 7 were approved.

The HE's decision was appealed to the MDC 6 times.  One was withdrawn prior to the MDC hearing it (the HE had recommended denial).  Of three petitions which the HE had recommended denial, 2 were overturned by the MDC and 1 approved.  Of two petitions which the HE had recommended approval, 1 was approved and 1 denied by the MDC.

Overall, the MDC heard testimony on 12 petitions, approving 10 (83%) and denying 2 (17%).


Of all 323 variance petitions decided in 2014, 287 were approved, 23 denied, and 23 withdrawn (86% approved, 7 % denied, and 7% withdrawn).   Looking at only those 123 petitions not on the expedited docket, 100 were approved and 23 denied - (81% approved and 19% denied).

Most variance petitions are assigned to the Boards of Zoning Appeals, of which there are three.  If a variance request is packaged with a rezoning or other type of petition that normally would be heard by the HE/MDC, then it is assigned to the HE and not the BZA.

BZA I had 111 petitions on its dockets in 2014.  71 were on the expedited portion of the docket, meaning Staff and any neighbors or neighborhood organizations recommended approval of the petition.  These are perfunctorily approved by the Board.  Additionally, 7 were withdrawn.  Of the 43 petitions for which BZA I took testimony, 29 were approved and 14 denied - otherwise 67% approved and 33% denied.

BZA II had 70 petitions on its dockets in 2014; 43 expedited, 7 withdrawn, and 20 for which testimony was taken.  Of the latter, 15 were approved and 5 denied - or 75% approved and 25% denied.

BZA III had 100 petitions on its dockets in 2014; 73 expedited, 5 withdrawn, and 22 heard.  Of those heard, 19 were approved and 3 denied - or 86% approved and 14% denied.

The HE got 34 variances; 30 approved, 1 denied, and 3 withdrawn.

The MDC got 11 variances (7 initial hearings, 3 appealed HE decisions, and 1 withdrawn).  All 7 for initial hearing were approved by the MDC.  Two of the appeals were approved and 1 denied.

This is actually better than I expected, having expected the mid-90% approval rate.  Still and all, the variances are supposed to be granted because of a hardship on the ground that sets that parcel apart from every other identically zoned parcel in Marion County.  It is hard to believe that such a standard was actually met for the number of approvals granted.


Anonymous said...

Part of it is that we're actively changing the zoning code, which, you have to admit, was written with the assumption that most of Indy was still empty cornfields.

Had Enough Indy? said...

No, I don't agree. Parts of the zoning laws have change far more recently than that. Plus, the pattern at the BZAs and MDCs is fairly steady - even after parts have been updated, they grant variances which end up gutting the intent.

CorrND said...

I know it would not be simple to create, but it would certainly be interesting to see a geographic breakdown of where variances cases were considered. If a preponderance were within the old city limits, I have little issue with that. It is generally accepted that strict application of the current zoning ordinance is inappropriate for the old city limits and variances from setback requirements and parking minimums are almost a given for most projects.

I can't seem to load any of the draft Indy Rezone documents right now ( is completely dead) but I seem to recall that the writers recognized this issue and basically have proposed two sets of rules, one for old city limits and one for the old suburbs. Forgive me if my memory is foggy on the details of that.

Anonymous said...

Is there a link/website to a list of these properties???

Had Enough Indy? said...

I'm afraid it is a bit more laborious than a simple list.

Here is a link to the staff reports on all zoning and variance matters:

You have to select, one at a time of course, Board of Zoning Appeals I, Board of Zoning Appeals II, and Board of Zoning Appeals III.

Each of these clicks will take you to a page where you choose the year you are interested in. Then you will see a list of each meeting held that year by that board. Click on hearing results if you just want the addresses.

A bit cumbersome, but all the information is available.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely ridiculous board members. They even mentioned on record, during a recorded hearing, that they are not lawyers nor do they know the current law or code. Why are these people making life-changing decisions for business and homeowners? They rely only on the staff reports and staff's recommendation only. They don't even know what cases they are hearing until the moment the hearings start. They don't do any research, they literally have zero knowledge of anything code or zoning related, yet they are making decisions? Could this be any more backwards? No wonder why everyone is leaving Indianapolis and Marian County in record numbers. They are incompetent groups of people who continually change their minds and votes. How can you vote one week in favor of a case, and then change your vote next time if it had to be reheard? My thoughts exactly, speechless.