Construction of five rental units for low-income seniors in Tipton is expected to begin this spring after several months of public meetings and legal proceedings caused HAND to adjust its plans.
HAND originally planned to build nine rental units on five residential lots it owns on Southwood Drive, just east of the Tipton High School football field. But a Boone County special judge ruled in November that the nonprofit developer cannot build duplexes that cross platted lot lines, sending HAND and its design team back to the drawing board.
New designs are being finalized and cost projections are being updated in order to resubmit the project to the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority, which awarded HAND $2 million for the 9-unit development in 2019.
The Tipton Board of Zoning Appeals ruled in June 2020 that HAND could build seven units on the site, more than the five allowed by the city’s development standards. To build nine units, HAND needed a zoning variance reducing the minimum lot size from 8,000 square feet per unit to about 4,500 square feet per unit. The BZA agreed to a compromise of 5,275 square feet per unit, but neighbors objected and asked for a judicial review of the decision.
The revised plans call for one stand-alone rental unit to be built on each HAND-owned lot.
The Fishers City Council voted 5-4 on Feb. 15 to approve HAND Inc.’s request to rezone 1.8 acres of mostly vacant land that could be the site of 11 affordable rental cottages.
Their decision allows HAND to proceed with planning for its proposed Cumberland Cottages development at the southwest corner of 141st Street and Cumberland Road.
An application for project funding through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program is due in May, with a decision expected in August.
Cumberland Cottages would be HAND’s first rental property in Fishers. As designed, it would include 11 two- and three-bedroom rental cottages clustered around shared green space.
City approval was far from certain after members of the Fishers Plan Commission voted 8-1 against the rezone request, citing the planned density, the property’s location near a roundabout, and traffic concerns.
“We are used to getting push-back whenever we propose a new development,” HAND Executive Director Andrea Davis said. “Once construction is done and residents move in, though, most critics realize our properties are actually a community asset.”
Staff at Fishers’ Planning and Zoning Department recommended the City Council approve the rezoning, and HAND worked to address members’ concerns about Cumberland Cottages.
Although several members of the Plan Commission and City Council suggested another site might be more appropriate for the development, Davis explained the the Cumberland Road property is ideal because of its proximity to a wide range of services as well as jobs.
Adding 11 units to an area that already has hundreds of homes—including clusters of attached housing that are far more dense than Cumberland Cottages would be—will not significantly effect traffic, Davis said.
A letter from the city’s traffic consultant, prepared at the request of the Fishers Engineering Department, confirmed that 11 cottages would have “no negative effect on the surrounding street system” or on the nearby roundabout.
HAND and its development team will continue to work with the city to fine-tune the Cumberland Cottages proposal. One priority will be to identify funding to upgrade the planned carports to garages.
HAND also plans to form a task force to explore future housing opportunities in Fishers, including homeownership options.
Davis said the Noblesville-based nonprofit already has heard from several Fishers residents interested in renting a unit in Fishers. If the project is funded, the waiting list for Cumberland Cottages will open in 2022.
The Cumberland Cottages development team includes architect David Rausch Studio, Weihe Engineers, and Meyer Najem Construction.
Given the shortage of affordable housing options in the suburbs, local media outlets have been covering HAND’s proposal:
HAND Inc. is proposing to develop almost 2 acres of vacant land at the southwest corner of 141st Street and Cumberland Road in Fishers, where it would build 11 rental homes oriented around shared green space.
The Fishers City Council held the first reading of a proposed Planned Unit Development ordinance governing the site on Dec. 21. The city Plan Commission is expected to review the plans Feb. 3.
HAND hosted open houses on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 to share details of the proposed workforce housing development with neighbors and gather their feedback. Early responses were generally favorable.
Before HAND can develop the property, it needs to be rezoned. Once that happens, the Noblesville-based nonprofit will apply to the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority for project funding.
If approved as proposed, the development—called Cumberland Cottages—would include 11 two- and three-bedroom cottages, each with a porch. Planned site amenities include an accessible community garden.
“We are excited about the opportunity to put this vacant land to use and benefit the community by building homes that single parents and others will be able to afford,” said HAND Executive Director Andrea Davis.
The 2018 Hamilton County Housing Needs Assessment showed single-earner households that need more than one bedroom have a hard time finding rentals to fit their budgets.
Founded in 2003 as Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development Inc., HAND owns eight rental properties with a total of 137 units in Hamilton and Boone counties.
Its most recent development was Home Place Gardens, a 10-unit, $2.5 million community along 106th Street in Carmel.
Cumberland Cottages would be HAND’s first property in Fishers.