Thirty minutes before the May 6 Zionsville Town Council meeting began, the room was overflowing. An additional room with live video was made available, and enough people attended that only floor seating was available.
The first item on the agenda was the Sycamore Flats mixed-use development project, which was set to be voted on by council that night. With one council member missing, the council voted 3-3 in a tie for the project. The council then decided to table the vote until its June 3 meeting, when seven members will be present and a tie will not be possible.
Prior to the vote, the council listened to more than two hours’ worth of comments from the public. Although many who spoke were against the project, several spoke in support as well.
Before the council opened the floor to public comment, attorney Matt Price presented details of the 4.29-acre development and addressed what he called misconceptions.
“We did reference that we believe TIF (tax increment financing) as an incentive is a critical element of this project,” Price said. “What we didn’t want to be accused of or leave any doubt about is we were not wanting to present a proposal to you and make no mention of the desire for tax increment financing, have it approved and then surprise you with that type of financing. We wanted to be upfront about that.”
However, Price specified that TIF financing is a subsequent process and wouldn’t be voted on by the council until after the Sycamore Flats project was approved.
Many residents told the council if they didn’t vote no, the battle would continue.
Resident Bob Royalty spoke first from the public.
“We are angry the developers planned this project for almost two years but did not consult with residents ahead of presenting their plan to downtown merchants in February,” Royalty said. “Let’s find one (a project) that works, fits the neighborhood and doesn’t tear the town apart. We will remember tonight who stood with us and who stood against us for a long time. Vote no tonight or the fight goes on.”
Zionsville resident Heather Lusk spoke against the development, and although Price claims the development will attract more spending to businesses in the Village, Lusk said the crowd the apartments attract may actually shop more online than in the Village.
“The target audience for this is millennials, downtown businesses are hurting because of online shopping. Who shops online? Millennials,” Lusk said.
Lusk also spoke on the high number of attendants from the public.
“They’re (the residents) here because they’re passionate about this town, they’re passionate about having the right thing done,” Lusk said. “Vote no or the battle continues.”
Several residents and community members also spoke in support of the project, including Dan Rhodes, who serves as the president for the Zionsville Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
“We (the chamber) would like to state our support for the project; our members believe the project is crucial to the long-term economic vitality of our town. Our Zionsville merchants’ and restaurants’ benefit from this development is dramatic,” Rhodes said. “We have roughly 420 members, and we have been contacted by no members who oppose the project.”
After public comment, the town council discussed the project and asked questions of the developer. One question asked the developer if the project was contingent upon approving a TIF, to which the developer representatives said compensating the project with public improvements utilizing TIF dollars was critical. Another question asked the developer to provide the specific traffic improvements to take place if the project is approved.
If approved, First Street would be extended south, and there would be an east-west extension connecting First Street to Zionsville Road. A new traffic signal would be contemplated for the intersection of First and Sycamore streets.
The council will next vote on this proposal at its 7 p.m. June 3 meeting at town hall, 1100 W. Oak St.