Zionsville Plan Commission votes against rezoning for senior living facility

The proposed Emerald Trace senior living campus includes areas for assisted living, skilled nursing, individual apartments and cottages. (Submitted rendering)
The proposed Emerald Trace senior living campus includes areas for assisted living, skilled nursing, individual apartments and cottages. (Submitted rendering)

By Ann Marie Shambaugh

After a long – and at times heated – discussion, the Zionsville Plan Commission voted 4-2 not to recommend the rezoning of 25 acres near Oak and Cooper streets to accommodate a proposed senior living campus.

Residents packed Town Hall on Feb. 17 to weigh in on the issue, with several speaking out against the development in a public hearing that was continued from the commission’s January meeting. Only one resident spoke in favor of the rezoning, and the majority of those who chose not to speak expressed support for those who spoke in opposition.

Kyle Morris, a resident of the Russell Lake Drive who has served as an unofficial spokesperson for his neighborhood at the last two meetings, said he was pleasantly surprised by the commission’s decision.

“I’ve already been approached by many neighbors who are excited and happy with the results,” he said after the meeting. “We’ve all put in a lot of work, and we don’t have quite the pocketbooks that [developer]CarDon has.”

Plan Commissioners David Franz and Allan Rachles were the lone votes in favor of the rezoning, and Josh Fedor recused himself from the discussion.

The proposed site for the senior living campus developed by CarDon is on the south side of W. Oak Street between the Russell Lake and Enclave neighborhoods and is currently zoned as Rural Single Family Residential Zoning District. Developers had asked that it be rezoned to a Planned Unit Development.

The proposed facility is planned to contain several elements that include assisted living, skilled nursing, individual apartments and cottages. Nearby residents expressed concern over increased traffic, decreased property values and future development in the area, but developers said they did not expect those worries to become a reality.

“It’s rare, we believe, for a project to have the characteristics that it does that places very little burden on public services, substantial benefit to the public tax rolls and over 50 percent open space, while at the same time meeting a very significant need in our community,” said Matt Price, an attorney representing CarDon who is also a past Zionsville Town Council president.

David Boggs, who is running for Town Council in District 3, spoke during the public hearing and told the commissioners that had been appointed to the ZPC during Price’s tenure that they should recuse themselves from the discussion. That led to cheers from some members of the audience but a sharp response from several of the commissioners.

“This is one of the most egregious and reprehensible statements I have ever heard,” Rachles said. “I will not recuse myself.”

With the plan commission giving its verdict, the debate will next move to the Town Council, who is expected to discuss the issue at its March meeting. Morris plans to meet with Tom Schuler, the Town Council member representing his neighborhood and the site of the proposed rezoning, to share his views on the development.