By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Matt Price wasn’t a fan of some of the developments proposed near his home in Zionsville’s Village area, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
He partnered with two neighbors to purchase 13 acres at 410 S. 4th St. and 500 S. Main St., which is home to the Zionsville Trailer Park but is mostly comprised of forested land. Two years later, he is working to transform the area into a neighborhood of 24 two- to three-story homes known as The Cove.
“There does seem to be some uncertainty as to what people would like to see happen in that area,” said Price, a former member of the Zionsville Town Council. “We think our land is best used for residential purposes and greenspace and not for a parking field to support something more intense like a commercial development.”
In 2016 the council rejected plans for 200 West, a mixed-use project, just east of Price’s land. The Zionsville Plan Commission is considering rezoning that land from B3 Commercial to Urban Village District, which has more restrictions on the types of businesses allowed. Price said many developers have contacted him about using some of his forested land for parking to support potential commercial projects at that site, but he said he has no interest in using it for that purpose.
Homes in The Cove would be designed by Sigma Builders and are expected to sell for $400,000 to $500,000. Price said they will primarily be built where the trailers are now, leaving more than 75 percent of the site that includes a large pond and forested areas undeveloped. This will allow for beautiful views, Price said, and serve as a buffer between the neighborhood and any future development in nearby downtown Zionsville.
Price said that many Village residents have expressed support for the project, and he let residents of the nine inhabited homes in the park know that his long-term plans were to redevelop the land. While they have known for years that a change was likely coming, many of the trailer park’s residents will face an uncertain future if forced to move, according to Randall Whipple, who has lived in the park for 13 years.
“If we lose our trailers, we lose our jobs, our home, everything we have up here, because we can’t really afford to live anywhere else in Zionsville,” he said. “I work part-time up here, but it won’t be worth it to drive to the city or wherever I happen to move to.”
Trailer park residents have been told they will be given 120 days to relocate if plans for The Cove are approved. Whipple said he doesn’t know where he’ll end up, as his trailer is too old to move. He would likely end up living with one of his children, he said, but he would rather not impose on them.
“Four months is not a whole long time to get out for some people. We’re not like a lot of the regular Zionsville people who have money. We don’t really have much money,” he said. “It’s going to cost to move. You’ve got to find a place, you’ve got to pay to get your stuff moved.”
Price said that in addition to the 120-day notice, there will be a “planned transition” to assist the residents, but he did not share details, in part to respect the residents’ privacy.
“Everyone I’ve talked to agrees that the status quo isn’t good for anyone,” he said. “Hopefully along with the development pattern that (The Cove) establishes in that part of the Village, which is a lower intensity, residentially focused neighborhood, I think it also improves current conditions. Of course, there certainly would need to be a plan for the individuals that reside there who have benefited from a longstanding but very unusual living arrangement in the Village.”
The Town of Zionsville recently spent $36,500 to assist several residents forced to move out of the Zionsville Mobile Home Park after a judge ordered more than half of the tenants to relocate because of what the courts deemed a broken sewage system. If The Cove development moves forward, the town may also provide assistance to those who qualify for those forced to relocate from Zionsville Trailer Park. Eligibility information is available at zionsville-in.gov/479/public-assistance or by calling 317-873-8240.
Price said that some of the people forced to move from the Zionsville Mobile Home Park inquired about expanding Zionsville Trailer Park. If the town doesn’t approve The Cove, he said an expansion could be an option. Zionsville Trailer Park, which has been in existence since the 1950s, at one time had spots for 20 to 25 mobile homes.
The plan commission will revisit the issue at 7 p.m. Aug. 21.