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Carmel BZA denies variance for backyard soccer training • Current Publishing

The Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously denied a variance request Jan. 23 that would have allowed a local soccer coach to continue offering training sessions in his backyard.

Cary Pruett, a former teacher and coach at Westfield High School, moved into the Springmill Crossing subdivision in March 2022 and began building a turf area for soccer practice – initially planned for use by his family, he said – two months later.

He said he soon began using his backyard to offer training sessions for a few youth athletes and quickly saw the business grow, enough that he could step down from his teaching career and make his backyard business his primary job.

Pruett filed the variance request after some of his neighbors complained about a business operating in a residential area. City code prohibits outdoor areas to be used as part of home businesses without approval from the BZA.

Pruett, who was prepared to limit training hours and student numbers to lessen the impact on neighbors, urged the BZA to approve the variance, in part because soccer training will take place in his backyard regardless, as his family plans to continue using the equipment.

“It feels like if there were ever a purpose for a variance, this would be the one, because the neighborhood will sound the same, regardless,” he said.

Ryan Feiock, whose backyard is adjacent to Pruett’s, supported the variance and told the BZA he doesn’t find the soccer training disruptive. But Tania Roudebush, who lives next door to Pruett, disagreed. She said the business has disturbed the quiet environment she experienced outside her home for the previous 20 years.

“Our ability to enjoy our home and backyard in peace has been taken away from us,” she said. “The resale ability and the value of our home have been jeopardized.”

The board asked Pruett if he had considered offering soccer lessons elsewhere, and he said he looked into it but that “a commercial space would be unattainable.”

Carmel’s Deptt. of Community Services recommended approval of the variance request pending several conditions to limit parking, reduce the number of trainees on-site at a time, comply with lighting guidelines, receive a city permit for an existing fence and more.

BZA President Leo Dierckman said the many conditions were among the factors that led to his vote to deny the variance.

“I can’t fathom us wanting to get this going and allowing it to remain in this location because of the negative impact it’s having on your neighbors,” Dierckman said. “This is a variance with a whole bunch of contingencies and requirements, which leads me to believe it probably shouldn’t be there.”

After the vote, the BZA instructed Pruett to work with city staff on a plan and timeline to transition the business out of his yard.

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