I-Team 8

Forrest Lucas, Carmel in battle over events at his estate

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) - There is a controversy brewing in Hamilton County about a 33-acre private home.

The Lucas estate, once known as one of the nicest event venues in town, is now trying to rebrand to comply with zoning. City officials sided with many neighbors and said hosting events at the mansion is a violation of the residential zoning in the area. Tuesday night, another event will take place at the Lucas estate. 

Down the road from the Lucas estate, I-Team 8 caught up with the co-owner of Ritz Charles, a special event facility. Bill Nicholls said the Lucas estate is a competitor, but they are not playing fair.

"This all boils down to do they have a commercial license? Do they have a commercial liquor license? Do they have the commercial capabilities? And if they do, then are they paying commercial tax rates?" Nicholls said. 

I-Team 8 asked Nicholls about the GOP event happening at the estate Tuesday and he said he can't blame the people who schedule events there.

As for Ronald Jones, who lives half a mile from the Lucas estate, he doesn't care who parties there: He wants it to end for good.

"We're all quite frustrated because this has been a residential area for several decades and we all bought here thinking it was nice and quiet," said Jones about himself and the members of his homeowners' association. 

A November letter from the Carmel director of community services says the Lucas estate is not allowed to operate as an event venue and may only host four events a year. Attorneys for the Lucas estate filed an appeal with the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals. In a second letter from the city in May, the city clarified that the Lucases may have private events or events benefiting nonprofits, political or charitable causes sponsored and hosted by the Lucases.

The Indiana Republican Party told I-Team 8 they do not need a permit for the event but did not respond to our request for comment on the controversy of the venue.

An attorney for the Lucas family said that "it is not a commercial venue. Period."

He also said that Tuesday night's event is a "private event hosted by Forrest and Charlotte Lucas at their house." 

The Lucas estate appeal will be back before the Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday. 

Although Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is one of the state's foremost Republicans, he will not be at the GOP event at the Lucas estate.

Brainard issued this statement:

Private political fund raisers are commonly held in private residences in Carmel. We do not require permits for someone to host a fundraiser at their home. Other fundraisers are held at venues established to hold events such as a neighborhood clubhouse or commercial event venues. We want to clarify that this event does not appear to be a for-profit event (such as a wedding venue) but is a political fundraiser. There is evidence, however, that the property has been marketed as an event center. If this is the case, it violates several city ordinances.

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