Zionsville council members cite lack of financial information for tie vote


A vote to amend an ordinance to change the zoning classification of a property at 5929 S. 700 E. resulted in a 3-3 tie at the Feb. 7 Zionsville Town Council meeting. The council will vote on the matter again at its March 7 meeting. The councilors who voted no cited a lack of financial information from the mayor’s office.

Town Council President Jason Plunkett, Vice President Brad Burke and councilor Josh Garrett voted against amending the ordinance. Councilors Alexander Choi, Joe Culp and Bryan Traylor voted in favor. Councilor Craig Melton was not at the meeting because he was participating in a charity event.

The proposal is to change the property’s zoning from a Rural Single Family Residential Zoning District to a Rural Single Family and Two-Family Residential Zoning District.

Plunkett said the vote follows a two-year struggle between the council regarding a lack of financial data from Mayor Emily Styron’s office.

“We have not received any financial data since December of 2021,” Plunkett stated in an email to Current. “And that report was simply a fund balance, and likely incorrect given the use of the Town Hall Improvement fund to renovate Town Hall. The adopted budget did not include Fund 281, the Town Hall Renovation Fund, yet the fund was used for the renovation. The reorganization states in ZR2A13 that the mayor shall (c) Provide any information regarding town affairs that the legislative body requests. Yet we have requested updated and timely financials for the better part of two years, and we have not received them.”

Recommended by the town’s plan commission, the rezone request would allow the land to be donated to Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing in Zionville.

Garrett said it would not be wise to donate the land when the town might need to sell it if it ever needs additional revenue.

“The decision has nothing to do with Habitat,” Garrett said during the meeting. “My problem right now is, I feel we would be making a decision when we don’t have all the information. And the information we don’t have is that financial information we’ve been harping about. I would like to donate this land if I had a good sense that we could afford to do it.”

Another concern the council members have with the amendment proposal is whether the rezone would affect the fire department’s ability to continue training on the property. Although Zionsville Fire Dept. Chief James VanGorder confirmed the rezone would not affect the department’s ability to train on the land, he said that if it were donated or sold, the ZFD would need another training site.

“I question the decision to potentially donate a piece of property that has use for the fire department without finding an alternative location,” Plunkett said. “The fire department used this land for 700 hours last year. I had sent a request to the administration just asking to pump the brakes on this until we get the financial information and until we find a training facility for the fire department, but the next thing you know a rezone request is coming through. It’s frustrating.”

Styron declined to comment for this story.