Policy Goals & Objectives
A Clear Vision for the Future
The following policy goals and objectives describe the intent of this comprehensive plan. All major recommendations that show up elsewhere in this plan are based on the policy direction set forth in this chapter. These policies are intended as a common vision to guide the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Plan Commission, the Redevelopment Commission and other boards, commissions and City Departments in adapting this plan to a dynamic community and ever-changing conditions over time.
These policies and objectives will be implemented with deliberate and thoughtful actions that are periodically reviewed for progress. Those actions include, but are not limited to:
» Updates to the Unified Development Ordinance and other relevant City policies and ordinances
» Sub area, district and corridor planning
» Development and redevelopment decision-making
» Park, transportation and other public infrastructure investments, including public-private partnerships
» Education opportunities for elected and appointed officials as well as communication with the general public
1.1 Manage Community Form
The purpose of managing our community’s form is to continue efforts to shape the built environment in a sustainable way that helps to foster a sense of community or neighborhood identity and which facilitates improved quality of life. This focus on form refers to the scale and detailing of building architecture, the public and private spaces between buildings, and how they work together to create places for people that are well designed, safe and attractive.
As Carmel continues to grow up, not out, the form of the community will need to evolve to meet changing needs and to match the challenges of our growing city. Pedestrian scale improvements and sustainable mobility options, including mass transit, will become more important – particularly in denser areas of town. The preservation and enhancement of public green spaces will also take on greater importance as the use and value of real estate helps fuel continued urban development.
Continue to focus on form-oriented regulations and design review in addition to land use to enhance neighborhood and community character as described in this Plan’s Development Patterns.
Recognize the unique characteristics in each Development Pattern and establish regulations and/or subarea plans that build upon and support them.
Local street and pedestrian connections help foster a sense of community and lessen arterial vehicular congestion. Establish and improve links between neighboring developments through meaningful connections, where appropriate and with a focus on user safety, including street, path or sidewalk connections. Additional policies on infrastructure and mobility are listed in section 1.8.
Further improve neighborhood edges through thoughtful blending of uses and character as established in the Development Patterns section.
Continue to improve and expand the city park and trail system as identified by the 2020-2024 Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master Plan and 2020-2025 Zone Improvement Plan, as updated from time to time.
Continue to manage commercial signage to balance the visibility needs of business with the aesthetic quality which has made Carmel an attractive place to live. This includes preservation of street trees where possible. Pedestrian-scaled signs should take precedence over vehicle-oriented in walkable areas.
In walkable areas, building architecture should be pedestrian-scaled, prioritizing pedestrian safety and convenience with features including appropriately scaled lighting, access, awnings, sightlines, etc.
As Carmel continues to infill and develop, new developments should strive to incorporate natural areas, as well as to create unique public spaces and private common areas throughout a development.
Continue education and communication efforts that help stakeholders and residents better understand city regulations, policies and plans, as well as the roles and responsibilities of elected and appointed officials toward ensuring the successful implementation of those policies and plans.
1.2 Enhance Economic Vitality
Carmel’s economic vitality is a function of its success in attracting residents and investment. Quality of life investments have created a desirable place for people and firms to invest. This in turn provides more efficient land uses that support high quality municipal services. No longer the northern frontier of the metropolitan area, Carmel has become the center of northern suburban growth, and must continue to reinvest and adapt as it has for over 20 years.
Maximize the impact of the US 31 business district by adopting the fundamental Goals and implementing the Design Principles of the US 31 Corridor Future Development Plan. Still with significant room to grow through infill and redevelopment, this corridor can support walkability and a future transit line with thoughtful integration into existing development patterns.
Encourage pedestrian-scaled, mixed-use places in downtown development patterns because they promote vitality throughout the day.
Strive for safe, walkable, and economically viable places by giving focus to building form, as described in section 1, and by monitoring and adjusting parking standards to support opportunities for shared parking.
Utilize a range of communication platforms to educate the public and elected officials on consumer preferences, development and market trends. Use this as a basis for informed community planning and clear expectations of the appropriate development community.
Clarify and streamline development processes without lessening standards, expectations, or results.
Explicitly plan for transit-supportive density, scale, and last-mile connectivity along planned transit lines to ensure future transit success.
Promote the advancement of technology infrastructure, including telecom and fiber optics, to support city-wide commerce, the workplace, and home enterprise.
Actively manage street rights-of-way to prioritize curbside and sidewalk space in order to balance outdoor dining and pedestrian mobility needs, such as wheelchair, stroller, and micro-mobility (such as, but not limited to, bicycle and scooter) access.
Continue efforts to ensure that infrastructure is in place for all users to easily access Central Carmel from all directions, including points east and west of Carmel, regardless of travel mode.
The City will strive to further the “Carmel” brand as a great place to live, work, play, learn and raise a family. The City has already established a notable degree of branding; branding being positive name recognition and impression. Branding of a community is important when trying to attract quality employers and businesses.
Expand regional and local amenities - parks, riverfront, shopping, arts & culture and encourage social & civic engagement because they attract and retain talented workers.
1.3 Foster a City of Neighborhoods
Neighborhoods are an essential component of community which helps build and/or reinforce the fabric of a city. Traditionally, neighborhoods were not recognized by each individual development’s name as they are now. Rather, neighborhoods were determined by major physical boundaries; included a mix of housing styles; and were within walking distance to neighborhood service centers, schools, and parks which gave neighborhoods identity. This document encourages traditional neighborhoods with easy access to many amenities.
Carmel desires the quality of life benefits derived from the principles of traditional neighborhood design in all neighborhoods including active & walkable centers, a variety of housing types, transportation options, and a mixture of land uses.
Conduct planning in greater detail in critical subareas and corridors. These small area plans are critical where development pressure meet local needs. These include specific land use objectives, development form, transitions, connectivity, and mobility needs. Clear character goals communicate to developers the City’s and residents’ expectations.
Build upon existing neighborhood facilities and services, such as parks, schools, and fire stations to help define and maintain neighborhood identity and vitality.
Support opportunities that allow more residents to be located within a short walk or bike ride to many daily needs. This can be done by allowing more walkable and diverse housing options to be built near existing amenity centers, and allowing small scale amenities to develop near some residential areas.
Commercial uses will fit within the character of their surroundings by their form, use, and design, and are described in this plan’s Typical Corridors Development Pattern. Buildings should be designed to be flexible to help ensure that a use can change over the lifetime of the building while protecting the established character in particularly sensitive areas.
Promote housing options to support aging in place.
1.4 Reinforce Adaptability
Given the role of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that communities need to adapt to cope. These sorts of national and global threats are bigger than municipalities’ ability to cope. But within regional, state, and national frameworks, nimble cities will be better able to keep a healthy environment and high quality of life for current and future citizens.
Carmel will regularly reevaluate the local, regional, and national influences that affect development success and vitality. The City will also strive to predict the next evolutions in development to better recognize their impact on the city.
Periodically review and revise the Development Pattern Areas Plan map to adapt to changes in the built environment, evolutions in community values, changes in community policies, and to respond to critical corridor and subarea plans.
Continue to recognize, plan, and update critical corridors and subareas with a focus on flexible building types (those that can be adapted to a variety of uses, zoning permitted) over specific uses.
Continue the efforts and investments to transform the Monon Greenway into a focal point for the City’s center. Its role as a non-motorized commuter route can grow by continuing to widen the pathway, where feasible based on topography and context, and separate bicyclists and pedestrians in the most heavily used areas.
Continue to plan for and implement a grid system of more north-south and east-west collector trails and paths. This will connect residential and employment areas across Carmel and with neighboring communities.
Establish a cohesive central district between the eastern side of the Rangeline Road corridor and US 31 that builds upon the urbanized Monon Greenway, between City Center and the Arts & Design District, by creating pathways that connect east to west and encouraging activated ground-floor and public space uses that attract people to them.
Add a mix of housing formats, both owned and rented, to diversify the Carmel’s housing stock, especially along trails and planned transit corridors. This will support shifting housing demands as demographics and workforce needs change.
Where surface parking lots and structured parking is determined as needed for new development, it should be built in such a way that it can feasibly be adapted to different future uses and/or pricing structures. Where feasible, parking areas and/or structures should be screened, address stormwater runoff, have context sensitive lighting, be available to a mix of users at different times of day or week, and be considered for programming opportunities beyond parking.
Existing developed sites and structures should be analyzed for redevelopment and/or adaptive reuse, where possible. Reference should be made to the Historic Architecture Survey and, where appropriate, other programs of the Historic Preservation Commission. Policies related to environmentally-friendly construction and development practices can be found in section 1.6.
1.5 Cultivate Community Character
Community character is the quality(ies) and feature(s) of a neighborhood, district, or the entire community that distinguish it from other areas. Community character is desired and often helps build local pride, encourages investment, and improves quality of life.
Encourage different housing types and sizes within a neighborhood to support different household types and economic resiliency. This allows options for new residents and allows current residents to age in Carmel as they move through different life stages. This will add to the character and adaptability of neighborhoods as they mature. New developments should seek to strengthen the character established by the Development Patterns in this plan.
Create an opt-in developer, broker and builder guild aligned to the community's priorities and values, facilitating communication with major stakeholders.
Encourage usable and functioning green spaces, green roofs, green walls, and other features to help beautify the City while managing stormwater and providing wildlife habitat.
Encourage the preservation, replacement and continual planting of canopy shade trees throughout the city. Areas of focus include woodlands within new developments, streetscapes, and parking areas and open space areas. Care and maintenance of the trees and landscaped areas should be a priority to ensure a safe and longstanding environmental system. Canopy trees are desired because they add character and comfort to the built environment. Additionally, they also provide relief from heat, soften noise and light, help purify the air, and increase property values.
Reduce unnecessary removal of trees on lots, encourage preservation of mature trees, and require replacement of trees that have been removed for development.
Encourage electrical utility lines to be buried throughout the community, especially in urbanizing areas. Care must be given to the location of underground transformer boxes so pedestrian infrastructure is not precluded by conflicts with power facilities.
Require surface parking, when applicable, to be located at the rear or side of a development. Work with developers to ensure structured parking is underground, concealed by
retail, office, or residential uses, public art, and/or architecturally significant elements, thereby encouraging the architecture to be the dominant feature.
Public art plays an integral role in establishing the aesthetics and values of a community. Carmel leaders will promote the use of public art in both public spaces and within private developments and will encourage designers to include public art in their buildings and surroundings.
Public art contributes to the city’s distinct brand, economic vitality and quality of life. Carmel’s cultural character and identity make it appealing to residents, helps to attract visitors and drive economic development. City leaders will build on an existing framework and further public art initiatives by adding focus to public and private funding, planning, permanent and short-term piece selection, location, communication, and engagement to maximize public art’s impact in the community.
1.6 Lighten Carmel’s Environmental Footprint
Carmel is a signatory of the Paris Climate Agreement, and has stated it has a role in limiting warming to within 2 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels. This agreement also includes increasing adaptability to adverse impacts of climate change and working towards making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. Transparent reporting of progress towards community wide goals will be important for focusing on improvement.
As a signatory of the Paris Climate Agreement, and having passed resolution no. CC 02-20-17-04, develop and maintain a Climate Action Plan to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal. This plan should bridge across public, nonprofit, private, and philanthropic sectors to align efforts and finance flows with a resilient pattern of development.
Encourage an informed citizenry by sharing resources, transparent progress towards Climate Action Plan goals, and calculating individual household carbon footprint, with students, residents, municipal employees, business owners, and elected officials.
Ensure the economic opportunities and benefits of a sustainable city are available to all through workforce and affordable housing development in locations near jobs and other resources, thereby creating a more robust local economy.
Encourage green building practices that seek to limit carbon impacts. Accomplish this by example in municipal buildings and through incentives and regulation with private development. Green buildings conserve energy resources, provide more healthful inside environments, last longer, utilize products made from recycled material, and use products that can be safely disposed of or recycled when the building is eventually dismantled. Green buildings also strive to use local material to reduce the transportation impacts. Consider utilization of existing rating systems that measure these criteria, including LEED, WELL, and Passive House.
Encourage the use of durable materials and construction methods that prolong the life of buildings. This can be improved by building adaptable building formats that can change uses over the lifetime of the building.
Continue the policy emphasizing that City vehicles be energy efficient and low emission cars and trucks, increasing zero-emission vehicles when feasible. Continue a policy that limits idling.
The City should encourage use of watersaving devices, and request that citizens reduce water consumption by proper (“smart”) lawn sprinkling and exploring native and drought-resistant landscapes which require less water. Encourage rainwater (i.e. gray water) recycling to reduce potable water consumption and implement reclaimed water systems at City properties to conserve water used for landscaping. Promote low impact development measures such as stormwater infiltration, rain gardens, and green roofs when feasible.
Set the precedent for environmental protection or re-vegetation when developing municipal facilities like parks, fire stations, and maintenance facilities by planting native and drought-tolerant plants. Ensure similar standards are met by private development.
Mitigate the spread of invasive species by planting restrictions and encouraged removals through HOAs and public education programs. The Indiana Invasive Species Council has expansive information about the management of Invasive Species at https://www.entm.purdue.edu/iisc/index.html.
Reduce heat island effect by tree preservation and planting, reducing the amount of pavement dedicated to parking and travel lanes, and by encouraging the use of green roofs or reflective surfaces where appropriate.
Expand the market for solar and other clean energy solutions in Indiana through supportive development standards, incentives, and mandates. Work with utility providers to ensure a modern electrical grid is built with capacity for clean energy production and storage in mind.
Support experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurship through pilot programs that position Carmel as a leader and expand locally-relevant technologies and policies.
Continue to protect regional surface and ground water sources to ensure safe drinking water for Carmel and adjacent municipalities. Institute regulations that further protect the delineated wellhead protection areas from contaminants and land uses that have a higher risk of contaminating water resources. Consider incentivizing more native plantings, requiring less irrigation.
Increase effectiveness of wastewater treatment and discharge by combining master plans of both sanitary sewer districts.
Stimulate a circular economy by striving for maximum solid waste recycling and composting rates throughout the city.
Support sustainable transportation options by making them safe and convenient. This includes supporting bicycling and other active transportation modes through on-going multi-modal efforts to reduce vehicle trips and emissions. Expand charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) by requiring new nonresidential and municipal development parking areas provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate EV charging.
Conduct inventories, analyses, and cleanups of Carmel’s brownfields, limiting exposure to environmental contamination and spurring redevelopment.
1.7 Support Healthful Living
Cities play an important role in community health outcomes. Many of the social determinants of health are strongly influenced by city policies and a community’s built form. These social determinants are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. They are generally organized around five key areas: 1) Healthcare Access and Quality, 2) Education Access and Quality, 3) Social and Community Context, 4) Economic Stability, and 5) Neighborhood and Built Environment.
Strive to provide multiple types of facilities for exercise, opportunities to immerse oneself into nature, sport facilities and leagues, access to recreation programs, access to health education programs, and encouragement to succeed in one’s personal health goals.
Access to space for physical activity can be provided with continued planning and investment in walking, bicycling, and transit facilities, including expansion of the City’s Bike Share system.
Target for acquisition undeveloped parcels adjacent to greenways and trails for future park sites and public open spaces.
Work collaboratively with local health systems and health care providers to offer outreach services, health and wellness clinics, screenings, classes, smoking cessation programs, dietary support, mental health clinics, immunization programs, and other health care initiatives. Encourage benefit programs that incentivize active modes of commuting, including bicycling and transit.
Foster healthy environments as a way to positively influence social determinants of health. Efforts toward this include active transportation; access to exercise spaces, green space and nutrition; hiring, training, and promoting a local workforce; and expanding healthy housing options for all citizens.
Encourage mixed-use neighborhoods to make it easier for people to walk or ride their bicycles. This will provide a healthy lifestyle by providing the option for exercise in people’s daily routines.
Develop programs and improve infrastructure to encourage children to walk or ride their bicycles to school. This will increase their physical activity, improve their health, and alleviate automobile traffic around schools.
Support the development of healthy buildings, as measured through LEED, WELL, or similar rating systems designed to maximize the health of occupants.
Prioritize installation of street amenities including benches, street lights and street trees that make walking more convenient and desirable for all ages.
Maintain efficient snow removal from public sidewalks, curb ramps, multi-purpose paths, and mobility lanes / cycle tracks to encourage physical activity in the colder months. Educate around this type of maintenance for facilities as described in Carmel City Code, Section 6-52, as amended.
Support local food and agriculture by expanding community gardens throughout the city, through educational and pilot programs, and increasing participation in the Farmers Market.
1.8 Improve Mobility Options & Functionality
Carmel has made driving to a destination as frictionless as possible for decades. Roundabouts have successfully kept cars moving safely and efficiently and ensuring subsidized free parking on valuable land at destinations have kept this mode of transportation dominant. Now that Carmel’s growth will largely come through densification, other modes will inevitably be required to avoid automobile congestion.
Modes outside of personal vehicles have allowed for a lighter impact on street surfaces, air quality, and general congestion. Two to five percent of all commuting traffic should be made by foot, bicycle or other form of micro-mobility by 2030.
To support future transit, identify transit corridors and make crucial “last mile” (the gap between transit and a home or destination) connectivity improvements for walking, biking, ridesharing, and other delivery/pick-up.
Support a resilient regional economy by promoting regional and intracity transit. This missing transportation option would provide local businesses with access to a regional workforce as well as an additional mode of travel for all across the region.
Make walking and biking safe and convenient by implementing complete streets, which are designed and operated to prioritize safety, comfort, and access to destinations for all people who use the street.
Continue to prioritize and implement safety measures to eliminate severe injuries and fatalities to pedestrians and cyclists across the city. A Safe Systems approach should be employed, focused on building safety at a systemic level, rather than retrofitting spot locations after crashes have occurred. Strongly consider developing and implementing a formal Vision Zero Action Plan that requires a long term commitment using a multidisciplinary, collaborative, systems-based and data-driven approach.
Continue to develop a bicycle network to allow non-vehicular trips to be made by encouraging small-scale and requiring large-scale employment nodes to install covered and secure bicycle parking, and shower and changing facilities for cycling commuters. Concurrently, ensure that adequate bicycling facilities exist to allow safe and efficient bicycle commuting.
Encourage piloting and partnering with major employers and hotels on exploring other means for meeting daily travel needs.
On valuable public rights-of-way in vibrant areas, analyze the feasibility of dynamic pricing for street parking spaces to shift behavior away from single occupancy vehicles. Dynamic pricing adjusts by the time of day, location, and day of the week to ensure some street parking spots are always available, thereby cutting down on vehicles circling a block in search of a spot.
Complete the major east-west path links to complement the Monon Greenway, with a supporting set of paths, trails, and shared streets linking these to neighborhoods, destinations, and neighboring municipalities thereby offering bicycling as a meaningful commuting option. This includes the Carmel Access Bikeway program extending into southwest Carmel and Home Place.
Seek to electrify and right-size the public fleet of vehicles. The number of multi-use paths and narrower streets may require smaller service vehicles.
Ensure that the access and mobility needs of Carmel’s aging and disabled populations are considered with all City-involved opportunities, including safe and affordable transportation, and accessible building and pedestrian infrastructure that meets ADA standards.
Consistently require street and multi-modal connectivity between adjacent developments, to improve residential mobility options, as well as improved access for delivery, maintenance, and emergency vehicles.