Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Abdullah Asks For More Time On Zoning Variance Appeal

Councilor Patrice Abdullah (D), who apparently never bothered to research the issue prior to its approval by Metropolitan Development hearing examiner Judith Conley, wife of Councilor King Ro Conley, has asked the Metropolitan Development Commission to continue the appeal of the parking lot approval at the Julia Carson Government Center for a proposed restaurant/bar until the Commission's September 20 meeting. The hearing on the appeal is scheduled for August 16 (tomorrow) at 1:00 p.m.

Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer petitioned MDC for a variance, which would provide for a "family restaurant use" with a 576-square foot outdoor seating area, along with additional parking for use by restaurant employees. Indy Parks maintained a children's playground park on the westside of the building until recently. The playground equipment was abruptly removed in order to allow Center Township to pursue the restaurant/bar in the government building. Conley heard and approved the petition on July 27. After the development plan became public and people began complaining about having a bar in a government building, Drummer issued a statement indicating that the restaurant would not offer alcohol sales for now, but he did not rule out alcohol sales at the restaurant in the future.

There are actually two separate petitions, one for a variance to allow a restaurant in the government building and one for a rezoning to allow the off-street parking lot. Although the petitioner for both the rezoning and variance petitions is listed as Center Township, the docket for the hearing lists the City of Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation as being the party requesting the rezoning of 2.69 acres from the PK-1 District to the C-1 classification to provide for an off-street parking lot.

The park's department is being represented at the hearing by two attorneys with the law firm of Ice Miller, Timothy Ochs and Steven Rypma. Close Carson confidant and her long-time campaign manager Lacy Johnson is a partner at Ice Miller, and the firm has provided legal work for Center Township in the past. Johnson's son, Lacy Johnson, III, is listed as the registered agent and investor in the proposed restaurant/bar according to the Star. This means taxpayers are financing the legal costs associated with the rezoning and variance petitions so that Johnson's son and other undisclosed investors can pursue a private business pursuit at the government building, while Johnson's own law firm collects legal fees for the work. Because the city's parks department is also pursuing these changes, Mayor Peterson is clearly accountable for what is taking place as much as Carl Drummer, Julia Carson or any of the other cast of characters involved in this matter. Peterson also formerly worked at Ice Miller prior to his election as the city's mayor.

These relationships in government and politics can sometimes become so incestuous. Full disclosure needs to be the order of the day here. AI will do its part to bring these matters to light. If any of you have any pertinent information you feel should be disclosed, please feel free to share it with me and I will share it with the rest of our readers.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

So what does this mean ?

Nothing will take place on the above matter at the meeting on Wednesday ?

Something may take place about one or the other petitions ?

Now I am TOTALLY cornfused.

Advance Indiana said...

The matter is on the docket for consideration--with a note that Abdullah has requested a continuance, and that staff doesn't object to the continuance. In all likelihood, it will not be heard tomorrow, but I can't say that for sure. If someone has confirmed anything with MDC, feel free to share.

Anonymous said...

I plan to attend the meeting.

I will post what happens after the fact.

Thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been following this too closely, but everyone knows that City-County Council President Monroe Gray's wife, prominent Indy businessman Bill Mays, and the owners of Trotter Construction (minority construction firm managing the new main city library project) among manyt others are investors in this project, right?

This is the sleaziest and slimiest (as in the most corrupt and greased) project local government has ever bestowed on Indianapolis.

Julia, Carl, Lacy and the entire crew should be ASHAMED.

Anonymous said...

I've been involved in multiple zoning cases before the MDC and the three zoning appeals boards. As a matter of procedure, it is fairly common for a Landlord to petition the zoning boards, on behalf of a tenant who seeks a change in zoning status. In fact, I believe the rules require Landlord's approval and/or signature.

I'm told Mr. Abdullah will seek a continuance. There is no formal requirement that the MDC grant this request; however, it would be a stupid political move for them to deny it.

Don't criticize Mr. Abdullah yet. He is a man of honor and deep commitment to public input. He was left in the dark about this, which is comical...a club for young black Yups that didn't bother to notify one of the city's leading black officeholders.

I don't have the time, but can someone please look up the incorporators for Mr. Johnson's enterprise? If it includes the Trotters, remember this: Sylvia Trotter, until very recently, was the appointed chair of the MDC. She was one of the most ineffective chairs in the history of the commission.

And as for "Juice" Gray: he lacks even basic common sense. Remember, he is the one who sat in front of a city gambling parlor last year. In a city IFD car. With Center Township Constable Tony Duncan. And when quizzed, he said he had no idea it was a gambling parlor.

When asked about this lack of judgment, while oon the city clock, Mr. President waxed poetic and asserted such gambling parlours were a symbol of black culture.

Incredible.

Advance Indiana said...

Anonymous 12:15, I have not had any confirmation of who the other investors in the project are. That is one of the questions people would like to see answered at a public hearing.

Anonymous 7:01, thanks for sharing info on MDC procedures. I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that councilors are given a heads up on an petitions in their districts to give them an opportunity to comment or testify at the hearing. As to the incorporators, the Star identified the business entity's registered agent as Lacy Johnson, III based on the Secretary of State records. They indicated the business would be known as 300 East. I don't know what the incorporated name of the entity is though. A search of SoS's database for 300 East doesn't pull up the entity.

Anonymous said...

I made it to the meeting. This was my first time at a meeting like this so I may get some terms confused.

1. They dropped the zoning / variance request for the parking lot. So now it turns out not to be a need to remove the equipment that had been there before. Questions were asked who paid to have the equipment removed before any permits were given out.

2. A continuance was requested till Oct 4th on the zoning and variance for the restaurant and bar. The public did get to speak about the project. Several people spoke about how the deck and bar are completely built and ready to go and $'s had been spent on from who knows where ? Others questioned any problems associated with a bar in that area and drug abuse. Councilmen Kennedy had questions about music and noise from the outdoor deck area and any signage in the area.

Other questions popped up after the meeting - Were the proper permits filed for the restaurant and bar ? Board of Health issues ? Can you have a bar located next to an area zoned as a park ?

The issue of the bar and the larger issue of people running rough shop over the public will not go away.

Advance Indiana said...

Thanks for the update anon 3:29. There isn't a councilor by the name of Kennedy--was it Abdullah? They are rezoning the adjacent land currently zoned for a park to C-1 in order to allow for a restaurant/bar in the building.

Anonymous said...

Abdullah and a lawyer from Ice Miller were there to ask for the continuance.

Commissioners (Appointed by)
Mr. Robert Kennedy (City-County Council) is who I was referringto.

My understaning is for 2006-ZON-823 and 2006-VAR-823 which were for the requests of REZONING of 2.69 acres,
from the PK-1 District, to the C-1 classification to provide for an off-street parking lot.

This request had been dropped. They have decided not to pursue the parking lot request and there for the zoning change from PK-1 to C-1.

Advance Indiana said...

Thanks for the clarification. Bob Kennedy is a member of the Metropolitan Development Commission appointed by the city-county council and husband of Sheila Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kennedy's voting attendance and record were taken to task by McAna, who recently studied the voting histories of all MDC members. This occured as their appointments were up for reconsideration before Council committees. Their results are available on McAna's website, I think...and very revealing. Mr. Kennedy, while a smart architect, has not been a good friend of neighborhoods.

Don't fall for the smokescreen vis-a-vis the parking lot. It's a crime this playground was removed, but that can be addressed later.

The petitioners want to make money in a public building. Their ability to have that exclusive contract is the sole decision of the trustee? With no public input?

If there is any further evidence that the township trustee system doesn't work, at least in Marion County, I don't know what it is.
(Nowhere else can an entity spend only 34 cents of every dollar in direct delivery of poor relief)

The investors took the risk on the sole word of Mr. Drummer. He apparently thinks he's Lord High Potentate of Center Township, and can do this with little or no public participation. And using the township's taxpayer-paid lawyers to file the petition.

To hell with the investors. Such is the risk of under-the-radar activities like this.

Stop this bar. It is outrageously arrogant to think it should ever have bene done in the first place.

Advance Indiana said...

That's the problem when you put architects on these boards. They depend on business for business and that clouds their judgment. I'm not saying that's a problem with Kennedy, because I've not studied his record. Same problem exists over at the Historical Preservation Commission. It's a cozy little wine and cheese crowd that runs both the MDC and the IHPC. The elitist attitudes of many of these people is sickening. Some of them live right here in my neighborhood--Lockerbie. They really think they are better than everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kennedy is really a delightful guy. He's missed a lot of meetings, more than he should've for a commitment to the board.

He has voted with petitioners an overwhelming majority of the time. Often those petitions were opposed by staff.

He just needs to go. It's time.

He's not alone on the MDC. For reasons no one understands, the mayor appoitned the county Democratic chairman to the MDC, and only took him off this summer, when the heat from a bad zoning decision on the northside got countywide attention. (Ms. Conley was the Hearing Officer in that case, too) Mr. Treacy's sneers from the podium were legend. Is this guy ever happy?

Let your City-County Councillor know how disappointed you've been with the MDC lately. They are listening. They know Ms. Conley is a huge problem. She has a complete lack of knowledge of properprocedures of the MDC, and has asked inappropriate questions of petitioners adn remonstrators.
I gaurantee you the Mayor has heard from citizens and councillors about her lack of professionalism and improper decisions. He needs to hear more.

The Mayor has 4 appointments to the MDC, and they're supposed to be divided equally between the parties, according to the ordinance. For over four years, they were not.

The MDC is an important quasi-judicial body. Rarely does the City Council overrule them. Raise these questionsd with your district and at-large councillors. Except Mr. Conley. I imagine he's got a closed mind on this subject.

Anonymous said...

After taking with some others who were at the meeting here is what happened in semi-plain english.

At todays hearing the request for the parking lot, Bar and Restaurant by the firm of Ice Miller withdrew the request for variances for that area of the Julia Carson Government building.

A number of concerned citizens spoke out against the project as a whole. Not one person spoke to support the project.

The METROPOLITAN DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION and council member Patrice Abduallah proposed a continuance for further public discussion until the Oct. 4th meeting.

It was determined that the permit to modify the building for the Bar / Restaurant had not been obtained even though construction had already been completed. Council member Robert Kennedy was shocked at this breach of public procedure. He also was disappointed that the owner Carl Drummer - Center Township Trustee - and the investors of the bar / restaurant had already erected signage at the site and had held an open house at it.

Indy Parks Director Joseph Wynns expressed concern for the elimination of more green space through out the community area and he stated that contrary to statements made by Carl Drummer the parks department did not have a lease agreement and had not signed off on any agreement.

So what will we do as citizensand tax payers do come Oct. 4th ? We need to show up in mass and let the MDC know what is being proposed is wrong. We need to find out who is really running the process - the MDC or Carl Drummer and his people.

Advance Indiana said...

Anon 7:41--thanks so much for that information. That is simply unbelievable. Permits not obtained for a project in a government building? The mayor's parks department director distancing himself from the agreement--even though lawyers for the parks department originally requested the rezoning of the park land for a parking lot? Why wasn't this on the front page of today's Star?

Advance Indiana said...

As to that open house, I had mentioned before that I saw a bunch of people all decked out coming out of the building on the Saturday night before the Star broke the story about the restaurant/bar. That explains what that was all about.

Anonymous said...

The MDC's cockamamie rules do not let you lobby them in advance. As if that would influence their decision. And when they vote, they do so on paper ballots, which are not announced to the public. You can look at individual members' votes later in the MDC office.

This whole procedure is insane.

So, your only advance influence is with the City County Council. Once the MDC makes an affirmative decision, it it put to the next Council meeting for an up-or-down vote. Typically the council honors the district protocol: IF the case's district councillor wants to call up the case, it is. Otherwise, it passes into law quietly.

On infrequent occasions, the At Large councillors call up a zoning case. Unless completely cleared with the district councillor, this is considered very bad form.

A non-district councillor can call up a case not in his/her district, but scorn is reserved for the rare council member who does that.

I do know that all councillors, including the velvet voice, have heard about the MDC's decisions and the public disdain for those decisions of late. The Velvet Voice votes on matters which his wife has adjudicated, and no one seems to think that's a problem.

But then, of course, four council members earn their (major) income from city or county public service, and no one sees a conflict when they vote on issues affecting their jobs.

Two things need to happen: 1) Councillors are your friends on this case. Call them. E-mail them. Several of them need the evidence, that the public is disgusted, to step up. 2) start paying attention to the MDC, zoning boards and similar agencies of government. They exercise a lot of raw power, and most of the time, they do it well. The MDC is a multi-headed monster that needs tamed. That will take time.

Anonymous said...

The real rub here is not with Rep. Carson. She likely did know in advance, or should've. But her Congressional office is a tenant in the building.

Center Township Trustee owns this building. Center Township Trustee was the real applicant for the variance. Center Township Trustee decided this was a good idea, without benefit of public input or hearings for a no-competition lease with a bar. Center Township Trustee allowed illegal work to go on in the building he controls (no permits...that's illegal).

By the way, permits are required for a reason. Remember the tragic nightclub fire in Rhode Island a year or so ago? When the public frequents a building, certain codes must be met for public safety. If no permits were gotten, you can only imagine the code shortcuts these guys took.
Someone needs to start asking the trustee some tough questions. If you can get past his security guards. Or see him through the darkened windows of his taxpayer-provided police cruiser.

Oh yeah--and a Stop Work Order should be posted on that premises yesterday, for public safety's sake. Let's not hold our colelctive breath on that one, tho.

Anonymous said...

I was also at the meeting and took it upon myself to look for the building permits for the restuarant. I have looked up the permits on file with the county for this site but have been unable to fine the permit for adding the restuarant. There are requests for other things including for remodel to add the bar and to add the deck (after the fact). Those two permits state as part of the description for the permits ".../USE ALLOWS RESTUARANT AND BAR TO SERVE OFFICE EMPLOYEES AND GUESTS ONLY/...". I would think that this would mean it's a private club. What am I missing here? Everything that is being brought to light doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

Now just what do you think would happen if you just decided to put that very same playground back up on the very same piece of property without obtaining all the necessary permits? You would not be getting continuances you would be fined and/or in jail after you were told to tear it down.

Special treatment for special people. It has to stop, the mayor, and ALL know what is going on and they should ALL be held accountable.