By Mary Milz, WTHR Citybeat reporter
Several north side neighborhood leaders are feeling blindsided and betrayed by the city’s “11th-hour decision” to build a controversial flood wall along Westfield Boulevard.
Neil Bloede with the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association said, “it really feels like a gut punch to go back to square one and have the city recommend an alignment that the community resoundly opposed.”
Monday evening, the Department of Public Works issued a news release announcing it had “selected” the Westfield alignment, and was authorizing the Army Corp of Engineers to move forward with planning, design and construction.
The wall is the final phase of the city’s “flood damage reduction project” for the Broad Ripple, Warfleigh, Meridian-Kessler and Butler Tarkington neighborhoods. It’s aimed at removing nearly 2,000 homes and businesses from the 100-year Floodplain while eliminating the need for those property owners to meet “burdensome flood insurance requirements.”
How to best protect the area from the White River has been a contentious issue for several years. In 2012, after much study, the Army Corp of Engineers proposed building a flood wall as high as six feet along Westfield Boulevard between Capitol Avenue and Butler University.
Opponents argued it didn’t protect Rocky Ripple or the Central Canal (the city’s main source of drinking water) from flooding and it meant cutting down hundreds of trees.
The city agreed to consider alternatives with many assuming the Westfield flood wall was off the table, until Monday night.
“To say we were surprised would be an understatement,” Bloede said. “We had absolutely no idea this was coming.”
Michael McKillip with Midtown Indy said, “We just met with DPW a week ago and are completely blindsided by this and extremely disappointed. It feels like an 11th hour decision that seals the fate of a community right before the holidays.”
Bloede said opponents hope to have “a conversation with Mayor-Elect (Joe) Hogsett to see what his position is…we’d much prefer a mutually agreeable resolution to this.”
There are also those relieved to see the city move forward after years of debate.
“We’re all giddy in the Warfleigh neighborhood,” said Jim Polito.
Many homeowners there have been dealing with skyrocketing insurance premiums and fears of selling their homes until a protection plan was approved.
“We just wanted the city to move expeditiously with any alternative. We never favored one over another, we just wanted them to move forward with something extensively studied and vetted,” Polito said.
But he knows the battle may not be over.
“We’re just very pleased with this development and cautiously optimistic, but understand much work needs to be done,” he said.