Zionsville Plan Commission conducts special meeting for zoning ordinance


Correction: The story has been updated with the correct spelling of Regina Sharrow’s last name.

The Zionsville Plan Commission held a special meeting July 26 to allow for a public discussion on the adoption draft of a Zionsville town ordinance that reduces zoning districts to 15 from 38 through form-based code.

Form-based code is a set of regulations on land development to create a higher quality city by using building form regulations to organize the city instead of focusing on land use. This would make Zionsville only able to build specific-type buildings based on pre-approved designs, unless a special exception is made for the building.

The draft, a 270-page document with an attached zoning map, would affect every district in Zionsville. It was created by seven planning specialists at McKenna, a company based in Michigan that Zionsville hired for the city rezoning project that designs economic development, zoning, form-based code, transportation, landscape design and more.

Paul Lippens, vice president of McKenna, spoke at the July 26 meeting and also at the Zionsville Plan Commission’s meeting June 28.

At the July 26 meeting, Lippens reviewed some changes to commercial buildings, like hotels and liner buildings, in the proposed draft.

McKenna staff added a row house, a row house neighborhood, a gallery and liner buildings to the proposed code. McKenna staff members also reduced the height of some commercial buildings, like hotels and research facilities, in the proposed code.

“The residents that I’ve spoken with so far, we think this is a great move forward,” said Heather Lusk, a member of the Zionsville Village Residents Association. “We definitely support the direction this is going.”

Although many residents support development, many would also like to see changes for residential aspects.  For example, Lusk said ZRVA residents want a height limit of 40 feet to be set on A-frame roofed houses, and for driveway material options to be expanded to more than just pavement.

Although some residents are not opposed to the proposed new zoning ordinance, others said they would prefer to have less regulations and rules for their properties.

“Everyone who moved here (did so) for what it is, not for what it will be in the futuren” Zionsville resident Regina Sharrow said at the meeting. “This form-based planning is an attempt to make Zionsville a different place than it is.”

Many Zionsville residents have also voiced concern about the lack of parking in the village.

Zionsville resident Ralph Stacey said during the meeting that the town is growing, but there does not seem to be a guide for managing population growth. He said increased parking, speed and noise control would be beneficial to address in the zoning ordinance.

“Bigger is not better, it is just more costly and more difficult to manage,” Stacey said. “Our town needs to wake up and address this looming problem. Our destiny should be directed by our community and not by land speculators and developers.”

Lippens, addressing the public’s concerns, said rural preservation is within the proposed code.

“What we heard (from public discussions) is new commercial development should be in a manner, in a style, that matches the village,” Lippens said. “But the rest of the town should have a growth development plan.”

Lippens said McKenna does not intend to use the proposed code to densify Zionsville. Chris Lake, vice president of the Zionsville Plan Commission, confirmed that the document doesn’t allow for changes to be made easily and doesn’t allow for more density than is already allowed in the current zoning ordinance.

Lake said the board will send a draft of public input and board members’ concerns to McKenna.

“It’d be very important for me that when we get that draft back, to easily see what’s changed from one copy to the next,” Lake said.

The next Zionsville Plan Commission’s next meeting is Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21. It is open to the public.