Quality of Life is Rated High

Quality of Life is Rated High

Quality of Life is Rated High

March 5, 2004 - Noblesville Ledger

By: Joanna Hensley

Life is good in Hamilton County, despite concerns about growth.

That was the finding of a recent study conducted by the Center of Urban Policy and Environment at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, which surveyed residents about growth and job creation in 11 central Indiana counties.

More than one-third of Hamilton County residents said unbridled growth was the biggest problem in their community. By contrast, just 7 percent of the county’s residents said a lack of high-paying jobs was their top concern.

“Those with good-paying jobs – who are succeeding in the new economy – tend to live in the suburbs, when those in the old core counties tend to be more concerned about jobs,” said researcher Drew Klasik, a policy analyst at the center.

Hamilton County has the highest median household income in central Indiana -- $71,026 – and some of the highest housing prices in the state. The average sales price of homes last year was $222,631, according to the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors.

Despite Hamilton County’s wealth, attracting skilled jobs – and the property tax—paying businesses that create them - is a high priority among elected officials.

Noblesville is completing a marketing plan and has created an economic development department to attract business to the city.

Saxony, the first development in Noblesville’s corporate campus, promises to bring 5,000 jobs to the city, as well as corporate offices and life science businesses.

Westfield also completed an economic development initiative last year, which identified quality of life issues that may help attract business – including good schools, plentiful parks and the availability of affordable and corporate housing.

Kevin McGovern of Westfield said the quality of life is great, but he hopes his beloved small town will not grow to the size of its neighbor, Carmel. McGovern, who owns 4 acres, bought his land a decade ago but now finds it’s too expensive to move to a small house elsewhere in town. “The price of real estate is way too high, " he said. “I’d be paying four times what I paid for my land to get a quarter-acre lot.”

Yet residents in Cicero, Noblesville and Westfield have begun to ask for developments that offer bigger homes with more architectural treatments on larger lots. Cicero resident surveyed last year for the town’s master plan update said they want most homes to be valued at $175,000 to $250,000.

Officials in those communities have answered with tougher zoning and architectural requirements, but residents are still worried about rapid growth. Candidates in Noblesville and Westfield said last year that residential growth should be slowed until roads, sewers and public safety personnel numbers can catch up.

Some Washington Township residents have threatened to ask to be annexed by Carmel – possible cutting Westfield’s future population by thousands – because of unpopular retail developments in residential areas.

The survey was commissioned by Central Indiana United Way agencies to determine community attitudes about change. Generally, the study found, residents are happy with the quality of life, with 96 percent in Hamilton County saying their communities are good places to live.

Central Indiana residents surveyed echoed a similar study conducted in 2000 by the center, Klasik noted. The survey also found that 73 percent of respondents believe growth has not changed the feel of their neighborhood.

Judy Dunbar, who lives in Indianapolis but works in Noblesville, said the city still has a small-town feel and friendly people, which makes work a breeze. But she has seen changes in the county since she graduated from Carmel High School decades ago. “I miss the farmland,” she said. “It’s nothing bad; I just wish it was the way it used to be.”