By Ann Marie Shambaugh
The Zionsville Plan Commission on June 20 unanimously voted to give the 200 West mixed-use development an unfavorable recommendation. The Zionsville Town Council will have the final say on the project, which is proposed on 4.32 acres on Sycamore Street west of Main Street.
“It’s the way this PUD is assembled. It’s a pretty open-ended ask, and I would prefer to see something that was a little bit more tailored for what might actually happen,” commissioner Larry Jones said.
Representatives for developer Fabrico first brought the project before the commission in March. After several public meetings they made some changes to the development, including reduced building heights, increased setbacks for top floors of the tallest buildings and decreasing the number of single family homes.
“We have made changes, and unfortunately oftentimes it seems as though the only changes that some people accept are their way or the highway, but we have tried to compromise if possible,” said Tim Ochs, an attorney representing Fabrico, at the beginning of the meeting. “We still think this is a great project for the town and for the downtown Village.”
Steve Fehribach of A&F Engineering shared results from a traffic study filed with the town on June 17 and concluded that “this development does not add a whole lot of traffic to the intersection.” A drainage expert briefly presented a recommendation to construct underground retention areas to limit flooding issues. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to convince commissioners that the project would be a good fit.
“I’m less enamored with this project as it is presented at this point in time as I was when it was first presented,” ZPC vice president Jay Parks said. “It hasn’t solved some of the problems we have, and it will potentially increase the problems we do have.”
Several Zionsville residents spoke against the development, expressing concerns – as they have for months – about increased traffic, potential drainage problems and more.
Others said they couldn’t support the project because they believed it could add students to Zionsville Community Schools without generating additional taxes to cover the cost to the district.
“The bottom line is that it makes no sense at all for our town to allow apartments in a TIF (tax increment financing zone). Every single student from those apartments will cost the school district more to educate than it will receive in revenue,” said Ann Royalty, a Village resident and professor of economics at IUPUI. “Moving forward with apartments in a TIF and the structural deficit that implies for the school system would be very poor planning indeed.”
ZCS Chief Financial Officer Mike Shafer told Current in Zionsville the district used its spreadsheet-based computer model to evaluate the potential impact of 200 West, as it does when requested for all new developments, with information presented from the developer in April. The results showed that 200 West would result in a total loss of $961 to ZCS, which the report identified as a “neutral fiscal impact.”
He also said that the district is sometimes asked to recalculate the model with new numbers as projects change, but that did not happen in this case.
“Neither the developer, the town, nor concerned residents have provided Zionsville Community Schools with any revised or updated information with which to conduct a new run of the model for 200 West,” Shafer stated.
It is ZCS policy to not advocate for or against proposed developments.
The next Zionsville Town Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 5.