Fishers church pursues other properties after driving range backlash
FISHERS, Ind.– Plans to build a church on a current driving range in Fishers have hit “pause” after backlash from surrounding neighborhoods.
Itown Church told its congregation Sunday that it’s securing a new parcel of land less than a mile away from the driving range it was set on purchasing.
The church has been in negotiations with Gray Eagle golf course to buy the driving range located at 126th Street and Brook School Road in Fishers. But the deal didn’t sit well with many residents in surrounding neighborhoods who felt the church’s plans would take away much desired green space.
“I just want to make one thing very clear, and that’s that the only reason I was frustrated with it all, we didn’t come to Indianapolis to fight the city that we’re trying to save,” Pastor Dave Sumrall told the congregation at Sunday services.
Sumrall explained to his congregation that the decision to look elsewhere was a reaction to mounting remonstration from neighbors. Itown has since entered into a new round of negotiations to procure 38 acres of farmland on 138th Street and Brook School Road bordering I-69.
Fishers City Council was supposed to have a second reading Monday night to rezone the Gray Eagle driving range to allow for church development. But those plans have been continued for at least 30 days.
Sumrall told his congregation Sunday that the deal with Gray Eagle is on hold until they get final approval from city council to build on 138th Street.
CBS4 spoke with Pete Petersen, president of the Fishers City Council, who explained that the new property on 138th Street is technically a “layover zone,” which means the church would have to enter a similar petition to rezone the property. Petersen says there is no indication, right now, that such a rezoning would face any obstacles.
The church’s decision to pursue other properties will likely sit well with the growing opposition to the driving range proposal.
Randy Forbes lives in a subdivision just a few blocks away from Gray Eagle golf course and driving range. He started an online petition on Change.org which garnered roughly 1,500 signatures opposing rezoning the driving range.
“A lot of neighbors were just concerned that this wasn’t the right location given their plans to continue to expand” said Forbes.
Forbes canvassed the neighborhoods surrounding the golf course and says he found many people against to the proposed rezoning. He says they shared his fear that the church’s plans would replace current golf course greenery with pavement to accommodate hundreds of parking spots.
Forbes raised additional concerns about possible flooding if the 27-acre driving range is mostly paved over, and the amount of permeable land at the site decreases. Others have pointed out that the driving range is designated green space by the Fishers 2040 plan.
“We need to really take a step back, think about what we’re doing, think about true impact on areas,” Forbes added.
Gray Eagle Neighborhood Association has been among the opposition since the project was first announced.
Homeowner’s Association President Chris de Monclin said many neighbors in his developments had two primary concerns about the driving range proposal: first, the destruction of green space and possible effects on Gray Eagle golf course, and second, increased traffic from the church’s growing congregation.
“We reached a conclusion that at this stage, this project is not something we want to see happening in the neighborhood,” de Monclin added.
Right now, itown operates out of a building farther west on 126th Street in Fishers. The church declined to go on camera, but in an initial statement explained that the driving range property would be “the perfect location for itown’s new home for the Fishers campus, allowing us to reach even more of the Fishers community with the Gospel due to it’s central location and easy access.”
Mason McDonald, executive administrator for itown, released a follow up statement after the church requested a continuance to the driving range rezoning:
“itown has filed a continuance, because we have heard the concerns of our future neighbors and we simply need more time to work with the city to create a solution that is good for everyone involved.”
Sunday, the details about the potential purchase of farmland on 138th Street were announced. It’s unclear when the rezoning of the property will go before Fishers City Council for approval.