A Travesty of Justice
The Logging Didn’t Have to Happen
The Driftwood Hills neighborhood in Indianapolis cared about their patch of urban forest but few trees remain after more than five acres of trees were removed on March 27, 2019.
The Department of Metropolitan Development tried to protect these trees. However, the political process used by the City Council to throw out the decision was a travesty of justice. The overwhelming majority of people who cared enough about this proposed development commented on it; they wanted the forest kept intact as the Marion County Comprehensive Land Use Plan prescribed. Our democratic process, established for city planners to make zoning decisions guided by that Plan – with input from all who care to give it – was made a mockery. Under demands from a developer who was unconcerned about the congestion in that area or about the destruction he was proposing of the last forest and greenspace there, the DMD’s decision to conserve it was overruled by the City Council, which threw out the entire process that is used to approve zoning decisions under local and state law.
In light of the improper removal of Haverstick Woods, IFA has decided to move forward with legal actions.
About Haverstick Woods
Haverstick Woods was a rare forest tract in a dense retail/high traffic area at 86th & Keystone in Indianapolis. It abutted the Driftwood Hills neighborhood of 400 homes. The parcel is zoned for retail and is owned by Keystone Realty. But the nature of what can be developed there, the process used to approve the development, and how many trees can be saved, are all highly contested.
After the Metropolitan Development Commission rejected a proposal by the developer to build a 60,000 square-foot development known as “Alexander at the Crossing,” City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning persuaded her fellow councilors to de-certify their decision and grease the wheels for the development anyway. And on April 9, 2018, the full council voted to accept an agreement made between the Nora Community Council and Keystone Realty, from which Driftwood Hills was excluded. The City-County Council also voted against the option for another public hearing on the case. This article in the IndyStar explains further.
The Indianapolis City-County Council did not stand up for our neighborhoods and residents’ rights to have a voice in projects that affect trees, traffic, and property values. As a result, the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association, along with IFA, filed a suit on May 31, 2018, in Marion Superior Court and asked the judge to throw out the zoning reversal.
This situation is a complex case of zoning and political maneuvering. Read this two-page letter, written to the City-County Council members, that lays out the facts.
Benefits of Maintaining Urban Forests
Urban forests clean our air, buffer the urban heat island effect, reduce flooding, and provide habitat for many plants & animals, which makes the intentional and unintentional degradation and elimination of green space in Indianapolis all the more alarming. Too often, as seen in IFA’s campaign to defend the North Woods at Crown Hill Cemetery, developers don’t consider the benefits of urban forests.
An explosion of development has wiped out virtually all of the once relatively abundant forest and green space in north-central Marion County over the last 20 to 50 years and now Haverstick Woods, located at the northeast corner of 86th St. & Haverstick Road, is facing an imminent threat from development. Keystone Realty is proposing to build “Alexander at the Crossing,” a two-story retail/office space.
In October 2017, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) voted to keep the current zoning at the NE corner of 86th St. & Haverstick Road, thereby preventing the destruction of the woods. The MDC staff, before the vote, recommended the denial of the developer’s request to zone the land for a mixed-use two-story building, citing the “threat commercial use would have on the stability of the residential neighborhood along the corridor.”
The closest neighborhood, Driftwood Hills, opposes the “Alexander at the Crossing” development. Read more.
On March 12, 2018, Indianapolis City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning succeeded in getting the Council to reverse the decision of the MDC through a full-council vote.
Indiana Forest Alliance and Driftwood Hills Neighborhood understand it is not feasible at this point to advocate for no development on the site. So, we are advocating for a development that maintains the residential character of the neighborhood and preserves as much forested green space as possible.
- Article about the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association’s lawsuit in Indiana Lawyer, 6/7/18
- Blog: A Letter to Members of the City-County Council of Indianapolis
Haverstick Woods on 4/8/18 by Jeff Stant
- Letter from Driftwood Hills’ attorney sent to City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning on 3/9/18 to — explaining why the “call down” of the decision previously certified by the Council is at best, poor policy, and at worst, grounds for a lawsuit.
- Click here to type in your address & find your Indianapolis City-County Councillor
- Indianapolis City-County Councillors
- Councilor Christine Scales’ Letter of Support
- Blog: Rx for Haverstick Woods: Creative Problem-Solving by Clarke Kahlo
- Blog: Will Keystone Realty Work Toward a Win-Win Solution? by Stacey Clark
- Blog: Eleven Reasons to Leave Haverstick Woods Standing by Clarke Kahlo
- Blog: Save Haverstick Woods by Stacey Clark
- Blog: Haverstick Woods, A Compromise by Stacey Clark
- Press Release (10-2-17): Neighbors & Forest Advocates Plan for Vigorous Debate at Wednesday’s Zoning Hearing for Northeast Side Development
- Press Release (10-4-17): Metropolitan Development Commission Votes Against Development
- (5-25-17) Development plans near 86th and Keystone draw anger from neighbors
- (5-25-17) Nora residents angered about development plans near 86th and Keystone
- (10-4-17) Developer’s plan for $20M Office Building on woodlands rejected
- (2-25-17) Indianapolis Nora Residents try to work it out with Keystone Realty Group
Get involved! Take action!
Indiana’s forests need you! Be part of an active, engaged network of forest advocates from all over Indiana. What can you do? Join IFA! Volunteer! Or write to or call officials on behalf of Indiana’s forests.
Contact IFA’s outreach team for more information.