Residents of the Village in downtown Zionsville failed to get the area designated as a Historic Preservation District in 2005.

The Village Resident’s Association is now trying for a less restrictive designation that can protect the distinctive character of the neighborhood.

Members of a Zionsville Historic Preservation Committee are considering proposing a Conservation District ordinance for Village neighborhoods. While not as strong as a Historic Preservation District designation, a Conservation District would protect Village neighborhoods from razing and new construction that aren’t architecturally compatible with surrounding properties.

“Drive down Pine Street and you’ll see a huge house that is taking up most of the footprint of the property,” resident Andrea Simmons said. “It is looming over its neighbor, which will now never see sunlight again.”

Simmons said the bungalow on the property was torn down to make way for a three-story home. She said several homes on Main Street are huge and likely do not follow a design guideline for the area, requiring that a home footprint only take 35% of the property.

“We don’t like big mansions on small lots,” Simmons added.

Members of the Village Resident’s Association gathered recently to hear a presentation by the Historic Preservation Committee. President of the committee, Mark Walters told the residents zoning laws alone cannot protect the architectural integrity of the Village. The laws can be circumvented with variance requests to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

A Conservation District ordinance, which must be introduced and passed by the town council, would create a committee that would review only demolitions, new construction or moving any homes. Walters told residents at the meeting that the designation would not cover the business district, only the homes.

A Conservation District also would not require a review of the changing of an exterior appearance, fences or walls of a structure, as opposed to a Historic Preservation District designation. However, after three years, a Conservation District would change into an Historic Preservation district unless residents didn’t want that.

In Indianapolis, the Ransom Place Neighborhood and New Augusta Neighborhood in Pike Township are historic districts, Mark Dollase, vice president of Indiana Landmarks said. The organization has been helping the Historic Preservation Committee with developing the Conservation District.

“For somewhere like the Village, if it were to be designated, it would have a set of design guidelines that we would help create that would outline how to deal with (each) situation,” Dollase said. “Everybody would have those and be dealing on a level playing field.”

Walters said the next step is to talk with residents and gauge interest in the designation. The Historic Preservation Committee will send out a survey in about six weeks. If there is sufficient support, then an ordinance would be drafted for consideration by the town council to form a Conservation Commission to oversee the Conservation District.

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