The proposed Trail Overlay Zoning Ordinance raised questions for Westfield residents living near Eagle Creek at the recent Westfield Advisory Plan Commission meeting. Residents voiced their concerns that the ordinance would require them to give up property for a trail.
What’s the reason for an overlay?
An overlay ordinance applies further standards in addition to zoning standards.
According to Melody Jones, Westfield Parks and Recreation director, the overlay will not apply to current landowners; its purpose is to protect and maintain theoverlay area when and if new development is proposed. It does not affect the current residential owners.
Jones addressed the concerns by explaining which people could be affected by the proposed ordinance.
“It is there for the purpose of planning,so in the future if the land is sold for development, our trails are protected and buyers will have to maintain our trail standards, so our trails aren’t disrupted,” Jones said. “If we were not to put a plan in place when those property owners decide to sell, and if a developer comes in, we wouldn’t be able to preserve that area. This is good sound zoning plan, so when 50 years down the road, we haven’t lost these opportunities to preserve these beautiful green areas in our community.”
Will the proposed ordinance require forfeiture of land?
Carrie Cason, City of Westfield spokesperson, said the proposed ordinance’s regulations would be triggered if the landowner sold the land to a developer, which would require rezoning, a trigger for the proposed ordinance.
“If we don’t have this overlay in place, then nothing prevents a developer from coming in and building on this land and breaking up our trail system,” Cason said. “So when a developer comes in, he’ll build a trail or he’ll leave an area for that trail. It’s good planning.”
“When people say, ‘You’re taking my land,’that’s not the case. It’s simply good planning and protection. The city is not taking anyone’s land,” Jones said.
Will the proposed ordinance devalue property?
Jones said that in fact it’s just the opposite. It actually provides security for buyers knowing the city’s standards and regulations upfront – no surprises.
“Knowing what’s expected at the properties adjacent to you is abenefitto a developer to make a decision for what he wants to do there,” Jones said. “The fact that we will have an overlay in place, those people know, they’re protected, and they’re willing to invest in here because they know the next guy who comes in next to them can’t just do whatever he wants. They have to follow the same standards. That’s a huge incentive for people because there aren’t any surprises.”
According to Jones, property with close access to a trail system is a proven selling point.
“Our trail system is our beachfront property. Everywhere our trails have been built, it’s proven that property sells at a higher price than an exact same piece of property half a mile away, and the reason is, it’s on the Monon,” Jones said. “It’s a commodity to be on the trail.”
Jones said the proposed ordinance was returned to the ordinance review committee, and the committee held its first working session last Tuesday to simplify the proposed ordinance’s wording.
“If someone reads it and it doesn’t apply to them, and they don’t understand that, then it needs to be reworded so it’s understandable for people who don’t have experience with zoning or ordinances,” Jones said. “It’s a matter of being clear in our wording.”
Jones said the revised proposed ordinance could return to the Westfield AdvisoryPlan Commission sometime in February.