Comprehensive plan will guide Zionsville’s future


More than 20 years after its last update, the Town of Zionsville’s comprehensive plan is set for an overhaul, seeking to lay the foundation for success over the next decade or longer.

A comprehensive plan is a non-binding document that municipalities use to guide decisions on growth, attracting businesses, zoning, residential developments, safety, park planning and just about anything else that may happen within its boundaries.

Zionsville Mayor John Stehr called the town’s current comprehensive plan “aggressively out of date,” noting that when the plan was created in 2003, Zionsville had not yet expanded into Perry and Union townships.

“It was a much smaller place and the issues were much different,” Stehr said. “What the new comprehensive plan will be is a roadmap for how the town is going to develop over the coming years. Land usage is going to be very important. Transportation is going to be very important. Once the comprehensive plan is done, we’ll take a look at our zoning too, because zoning has grown to 28 different zoning classifications here, which is really pretty crazy. Fifteen would be better.”

Stehr said the first step will be to reach out to neighbors in more rural areas of town to see what they would like to see included in the plan.

“The people who live in the old Union Township and the people who live in Perry Township are really proud of their rural heritage,” Stehr said. “They are every bit as proud of that as the people are proud of the brick Main Street and the historic nature of that. Those voices need to be heard and we really need to understand what people want. They deserve to have a voice in the future of their town, and we shouldn’t be steamrolling them.”

Stehr said a steering committee will be formed to represent multiple entities, such as historic preservation, parks, schools, public safety, the library and businesses, along with residents.

“Those are the voices that we need to hear, because those are the voices that make up the town,” Stehr said. “We’re going to do robust public hearings and make sure that it’s not weighted too heavily toward one group or another and that everybody has an equal voice. That’s going to be hard, that’s going to take a lot of work.”

Stehr said when the plan is complete, residents can expect a document of around 300 pages long that will serve to guide the future of Zionsville.

The town is planning public meetings targeted in different areas of town, so as to not exclude those who live further away from Town Hall. There will also be online surveys, research and additional outreach and engagement as the effort ramps up.

“It’s going to be so important that we get this right,” Stehr said. “It’s going to be a very distinct effort to make sure those voices are heard.”

In March, town officials agreed to hire HWC Engineering to take on the task. The town will pay $300,000 for the comprehensive plan, and $150,000 for the transportation plan, which will be conducted concurrently. The funding for the comprehensive plan was appropriated in 2023. That money comes from the town’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The plan is expected to take 18 months to complete.

“We hope that the comprehensive plan really focuses us and provides that roadmap for the next generation,” Stehr said.