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Boone County / Hamilton County / Regional News

Adding mayor expected to be good for business in Zionsville

August 20, 2015

Having a mayor is good for business in Zionsville.

That what about 25 members of the Zionsville Chamber of Commerce recently heard from attorney Nicole Buskill of Hamilton County law firm Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim. She was asked at a Chamber meeting to discuss how the town’s reorganization might affect local businesses.

For the most part, she said, it streamlines how businesses can work with the town. No zoning laws have changed, and taxes will remain the same.

The main difference for business owners is that they now have a point person to contact: Mayor Jeff Papa. Before the reorganization, working with the town usually meant including all seven town council members.

Buskill also mentioned the town should see some economic development benefits from having a mayor, because it makes negotiating with companies about incentives easier. Under the old government structure, the town council president served as the executive and worked with prospective companies.

But the council president typically had to involve the rest of the council and comply with the Open Door Law, which regulates how, when and what information must be disclosed to the public. A mayor can keep incentive negotiations confidential in the beginning stages.

Papa, who attended the meeting, said that burden has almost cost the town big investments, like the $40 million FedEx Ground package-distribution center.

“That would have been a disaster,” Papa said.

In June, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a ruling that allowed Zionsville to reorganize with Perry Township and add the position of mayor without becoming a city. At that time, council president Papa was sworn in as the town’s first mayor.

Julie Johns-Cole, executive director of the chamber, said the town needed a mayor to help with economic growth and improve the everyday functions of the town.

“This is an issue we’ve been keeping an eye on for over three years now,” Johns-Cole said.

Neighboring Whitestown continues to fight the reorganization, and the case is pending before the Indiana Supreme Court.

Whitestown filed a lawsuit against Zionsville in June 2014 to protect its western border. A merger essentially would encircle Whitestown, with Zionsville to the east and Perry Township to the west. Whitestown argued that the two bodies couldn’t merge because they were not adjacent to each other.

Zionsville maintains that after it merged with Eagle Township in 2010, it gained adjacency to Perry Township and that it could have merged with Eagle and Perry at the same time without any issues. The town also argues that regardless of the reorganization with Eagle Township, it does share a small border with Perry Township that meets the state’s 150-foot adjacency requirement.

Eight communities throughout the state recently filed court documents urging the court to consider the issue and rule in favor of Whitestown. The towns and cities argued that the appellate court’s decision would have a negative impact on long-term growth and development and would cause a “public policy nightmare.”

If the state Supreme Court rejects Whitestown’s request to hear the case or affirms the appellate court decision, the reorganization will remain in place. The court has not said whether it will consider the issue and is not bound by any timeline to do so.

In the meantime, Republican town council member Tim Haak has filed to run for mayor and is unopposed in the upcoming general election.

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