The Westfield Current was quick to report the facts of the meeting of the Westfield Washington Township Board yesterday as rescission of the $15 million-dollar bond loomed. The Board President, David Gill, had indicated a quick meeting, but his two board members allowed the public to opine his motion. The motion was not a rescission of the bond resolutions as expected and reported by both The Current and the IBJ, but the withdrawal from the petition and remonstrance process as cited by Mr. Gill. According to Indiana Code (IC 6-1.1-20-3.2 (8)), “Withdrawal of a petition carries the same consequences as a defeat of the petition.” What that means is that the Township Trustee and Board will not be able to bring back “any other controlled project that is not substantially different within one (1) year.” After the 2-1 vote to withdrawal the petition, it may be back to the drawing board for the expansion of the Township’s MacGregor Park.
While rescission of the bond issuance caused quite the kerfuffle on social media over the last few days, idle threats of damaging the Township’s bond rating ensued. Others decried the remonstrance process and claimed that those who signed it are “obviously against greenspace.” As the person who led the remonstrance team, I can honestly tell you, the suggestion is ridiculous.
In the crowd supporting the bond issuance was Westfield’s own, Advisory Planning Commission member, Chris Woodard. Applauding residents for their engagement in the process in spite of whether they were for or against it, Mr. Woodard offered his two cents and, quite literally, his thirty-six cents. Dramatically giving the board what he believes his tax increase will cost him as that is what he was told at one of the project information fairs. Melody Jones, the first parks director for the Township under Mr. Gill’s administration as Trustee, and real estate agent, advised that the parcels contracted under the plan would be used for commercial and residential housing “right away.” Finally, Danyele Easterhaus, one of the three township board members, offered that due to non-disclosure policies, details were not shared with the public at the time of the bond hearings. She affirmed that she had seen the site plans prior to the public reveal and remarked that Chris White, the developer of North Pointe, formerly Aurora, canceled a contract for “high-density housing and/or commercial” use, to contract with the Township. She said, “In the Comprehensive Plan, its [the land] zoned for high density housing.” Respectfully ma’am, I’ve seen the map. Currently zoned as ag-land, it is color-coded for rural use.
Perhaps, no one has said it better than Jen Smith, the second and last Parks Director for Washington Township before the roll was eliminated, “We are trying to solve a planning and zoning problem with a parks and recreation solution.” Jen, who is “for greenspace, as everybody is…” really hit the nail on the head. Those people who exercised their right as signors of the legal remonstrance process, objected to the tax. It is now incumbent upon Mr. Woodard, the township’s two appointments to the Advisory Planning Commission, and the rest to save us from the zoning nightmare that Ms. Easterhaus warned us about.
As a PAC member of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County, I want to finish this blog post with some final thoughts on the financial burden that was avoided with the Board’s decision to withdraw from the petition and remonstrance process. The message is still in the math. My friend and fellow PAC member, David Giffel, authored a great article on the financial ramifications of this bond so I will offer it again. “Washington Township Tax Increase” gives a far-clearer picture of the impact we faced. In the meantime, prepare yourself for one helluvah tax bill in the spring and we can thank Mr. Gill and Ms. Strahm that it won't include this bond! As Sam Quinn's article reported there was some public shaming that took place; I feel fairly certain I know who should be ashamed.
A note about the author: Marla Ailor is a 20-year resident of Westfield Washington Township. She ran for Township Trustee in the 2018 GOP Primary to the incumbent. In that same year, she joined several other like-minded HamCo on the board of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County PAC.