Court clears way for Zionsville expansion, first mayor

Zionsville has won approval from the Indiana Court of Appeals to merge with Perry Township and add a mayor.

The court's ruling, released Tuesday, allows the town and township to reorganize together and add the position of mayor without transitioning to city government. The issue landed in the courts after Whitestown filed a lawsuit in June 2014 to prevent the two entities from reorganizing.

Jeff Papa, formerly a town council member, will serve as the town’s first mayor for the rest of the year. Former Perry Township Trustee Sam Baldwin has been sworn in to serve on the town council in Papa’s absence.

Republican town council member Tim Haak has filed to run for mayor in the November election.

Zionsville saw the reorganization as an opportunity to add the position of mayor, which it has wanted for years, while Whitestown wanted to protect its western border for growth.

Unincorporated Perry Township is mostly undeveloped, with some residential property, several cemeteries and a few businesses.

The governing bodies for Perry Township and Zionsville approved the plan last spring, but in October, a Boone County judge ruled in favor of Whitestown. Zionsville then appealed the decision.

Voters living in Perry Township and Zionsville approved the reorganization in November.

A three-judge panel for the court of appeals heard the case at the end of March.

Zionsville argued that when it merged with Eagle Township in 2010, it assumed the powers of a township, which allows it to merge with an adjacent township within the same county. Before the merger with Zionsville, Eagle Township bordered Perry Township and both are within Boone County, making the proposed merger with Perry Township legal.

Whitestown argued that when Zionsville merged with Eagle Township, the township ceased to exist and so did the borders, so Zionsville doesn’t border Perry Township.

The court of appeals sided with Zionsville, saying the town is allowed to act as a township and reorganize with Perry Township because it still provides services all throughout the old Eagle Township.

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