As is the case with most students, junior Grecia Michel has a job.
“On Saturdays, I work as a hostess at Cancun Mexican Restaurant,” she said.
But Michel doesn’t just work there. Her family has owned and operated the restaurant for 16 years. Families like the Michels are not hard to come by in Carmel, as many own small businesses, and many are feeling the strain—of population growth, that is.
According to the U.N. Population Division, the world population will reach seven billion by the end of the year. If this trend continues, the population could reach 10.5 billion by 2050, and statistics in Carmel reflect this massive growth.
According to Mike Hollibaugh, the director of the department of community services for the City of Carmel, the city pays close attention to both local and regional population growth.
“Our city has been one of the fastest growing places in the state for 40 years and has far outpaced growth of our state and country,” he said. “The state of Indiana added 400,000 new residents between 2000 and 2010, and during that same period, Carmel’s population growth was 41,000, the highest percentage increase of any city in Indiana.”
This population growth, Hollibaugh said, has a direct effect all types of businesses.
“I believe that population growth is good for businesses, big and small, service type and retail business,” he said. “More people equals more customers, and more customers should lead to increased revenue, and then hopefully profit. An increasing population also has an effect on business competition: New companies start up or move into the area, attracted by the increased population.”
As a result, businesses such as the one owned by the Michels have had to take action, whether through expansion, franchising or adding services. Such is the reason behind the Michels’ decision to open additional locations in Carmel, Westfield, Fishers and Broad Ripple.
Where to Now?
While this population growth may be beneficial for business owners, the city of Carmel is in a bit of a pickle. Since the city is surrounded on all sides by competing communities such as Indianapolis, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville and Fishers, it is running out of room for expansion.
According to Hollibaugh, Carmel is similar to San Francisco in that both cities are approximately 50 square miles in area. He stressed, however, that it is not Carmel’s intention to become another San Francisco, but that some growth and rejuvenation of the city is necessary to maintain a viable city.
“Our city will continue to grow for the foreseeable future,” he said. “We have some room to grow and to refine our current low density development pattern in the residential areas east of Keystone Parkway and west of Spring Mill Road. Most of this will be on the smaller tracts of real estate already surrounded by homes that will be competing for future parkland, possibly an occasional corner store, and some may remain as habitat or farmland for local food production.”
This lack of room for expansion has also created a small problem for schools. According to Hollibaugh, the City and school administrations work together by sharing not only building permits and population projections to plan for growth but also numbers that help monitor growth and make accurate assessments of development.
This continued growth results in redistricting, a process that inconveniences students who are affected. After new redistricting legislation passed in 2003, junior Stephanie Volkmar had to move from Carmel Elementary School to Smokey Row Elementary School. According to Volkmar, she opposed the redistricting at first but has since grown to appreciate it.
“The change helped me understand what it was like to be a new student and caused me to grow socially,” she said.
As for the school board, new redistricting legislation was passed at its Feb. 14 meeting. According to Steve Dillon, director of student services for Carmel Clay Schools, highlights of the plan included providing for growth on the west side, moving approximately 800 students and assuring that no student currently attending the affected schools had been redistricted before. The district is extremely careful, however, to make sure that all redistricting efforts move seamlessly.
At the Feb. 14 meeting, Kim Barrett, principal at Smoky Row Elementary School, announced a plan of action for redistricted students.
She said all transferring students would receive a backpack with their new school’s logo on it along with a pencil and a welcome letter from the principal. Families will also receive newsletters and invitations to upcoming events at school. Furthermore, the schools plan to host activities nights for the incoming students so that they can acclimate to their new environments.
(For a story on the effects of population growth at CHS, click HERE.)
A Booming City
As Carmel copes with the ongoing onslaught of population problems, students often feel the growing pains. What seems like endless construction and constant physical growth may hinder students, but according to Hollibaugh, these pains are necessary. Infrastructure, he said, such as water and waste utilities, parks and recreation and public safety, have all been expanded to meet the growing needs of an increased population. Roadwork, however, is the biggest factor.
“The city has built and refined its roadway network to accommodate local growth in residential traffic, business traffic and regional traffic and have increased our construction of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to allow residents (more) transportation options,” he said. “In recent years the city has partnered with IndyGo and CIRTA on the Express commuter bus for morning and evening commuters and been active in the regional transit planning initiative called IndyConnect. We are also in the early planning stage of a local transit system.”
Still, according to Hollibaugh, one thing remains certain: Despite impending population growth, Carmel will continue to flourish.
He said, “If the City of Carmel and Carmel Clay Schools can maintain high standards of expectation for the future and remain willing and able to be flexible as the future demands, we have the opportunity to live in one of the great communities anywhere.”