People move to Cicero to get away from the hustle and bustle.
They enjoy the leisure life that comes with living on or near Morse Reservoir.
They like being able to drive their golf carts on the town’s streets.
And they prefer the small-town feel that’s unlike Noblesville, Carmel or Fishers.
So they don’t want anyone messing with their town.
The Cicero Chatter Facebook page was abuzz this week with residents concerned about the possibility of a future development that could bring more people and more traffic to town and disrupt their quiet little bedroom community of less than 8,000 residents.
About 50 people showed up Tuesday night at a socially distanced information meeting at Red Bridge Park Community Building in Cicero to learn about a new-home community proposal that is expected to be introduced to the Cicero Plan Commission on April 14 by Arbor Homes, a 25-year-old home builder from the northeast side of Indianapolis.
Residents listened to information shared by Arbor Homes. Then they asked questions about home affordability, community location, access streets, neighborhood amenities and entrances, parking, expected impact downtown and the definition of a planned unit development (PUD). Plus, they voiced their concerns about traffic, drainage, safety, sewer capacity and home density. Some of their concerns also revealed fear of losing the small-town country feel of Cicero, the reason that many move here.
The meeting was conducted by Arbor Homes entitlement manager Paul Munoz, the former building commissioner of the Town of Cicero, who shared information about Jackson Park, a proposed neighborhood that could be developed on 181 acres, on two adjacent parcels of farmland located behind homes, west of Indiana 19, north of Brinton Street and south of 235th Street. The farmland, which is for sale, currently belongs to TNT Farms LLC, which is the estate of the late Dick Irving now held by son Tom Irving.
“We try to do these meetings every opportunity we have for a new development because we want to make sure people understand what’s coming in, the scope and the scale and what this really looks like,” Munoz said.
There would be three different sections of the new-home community, empty-nester homes targeted to ages 55 and older, entry-level Arbor Homes and Silverthorne Homes, Arbor Homes’ sister company that offers a luxurious, custom-built home line with high-end features. Options will include basements and three-car and side-load garages and more than 100 different elevations. There could be four sizable retention ponds; the number will depend on the final drainage design. Arbor Homes is working with the Town of Cicero to create a seven-acre park and donate it to the town for public park space, and a trailhead for the county trail would extend to Strawtown Koteewi Park.
Lot-size minimum is 60 by 120 feet with larger lots available.
Munoz said the reason for the high-density housing is because “buyers aren’t looking for large lots … We’re finding empty nesters who don’t want to have to maintain a yard … they’re more about experiences about going out and doing things than having to come home and maintain a huge house.”
Construction of homes, if approved, is expected to begin in about four years, after water and sewer and all infrastructure are complete. “There is about $3 million in off-site improvements we have to do on this project, just to get sewer and sanitary and road improvements on that parcel itself. The way the drainage works in that area … has severe issues with it so we have a lot of upgrades we have to make just to get it from one end of our property to another.”
Average price for Arbor Homes is currently at about $245,000, empty nester homes a little more, and Silverthorne an average of $345,000 to $375,000, including upgrades.
An example of another nearby Arbor Homes community of Cranbrook is currently under construction near Pebble Brook Golf Club in Noblesville.
This new-home community in Cicero would be in addition to the already- approved new-home communities by M/I Homes and Lennar Homes of Indiana along Tollgate and 236th Street in Cicero. Stephanie Coylykes, 71, Cicero, said her property backs up to the proposed neighborhood. “I was a little concerned because I couldn’t place the drawing that they sent us … I couldn’t place the streets, where it would come out … until tonight. I’m not terribly concerned. We have parking problems here in Cicero because we’re a small town that’s growing, and people want to move here,” said the 25-year resident of Cicero who grew up in Arcadia.
Bill Geringer of Cicero, who lives in Greystone Village in Cicero, asked questions but said, “I feel better. I know a little more about what they’re planning to do ... I like to see growth but responsible growth.”
Dagny Zupin, communications coordinator at Nickel Plate Express and a member of Our Town Cicero community organization and Cicero Economic Development Committee, said she was there to “see how many people were here, how many people want to listen and hear for themselves what’s going on so they can make a decision,” she said. “I think it’s always great when people actually show up in person to learn instead of just commenting on Facebook.”
She thought Tuesday’s discussion was encouraging. “I thought Paul (Munoz) did a great job of giving thoughtful answers and showing that this company has considered things and it really sounds like they’ve talked to the town and they care.”
Brett Morrow, owner of 10 West restaurant, Cicero Market and a few buildings downtown, and who is with the Our Town Cicero organization, sees a positive in the new-home community with new offerings.
“We have teachers who can’t afford to live in the community because there are no homes for them to live in ... They can’t afford $350,000 price points … We have Beck’s employees whose kids can’t go to the Hamilton Heights School system because there is no place for them to live.”
Morrow said, “I think our community has a need, if we want our kids to grow up and stay in this community. Right now, there’s literally no place for them to go.”
Morrow, a 1983 Hamilton Heights High School graduate and the stepson of funeral home owner Kay Hartley, owns rental properties in Cicero and receives calls almost daily from folks seeking a place to live. “The inventory here in town is just so tight for rentals and for homes, as well.”
If Arbor Homes doesn’t buy the farmland in Cicero, somebody else is bound to buy the land, he said.
“It’s going to happen sooner or later. We might as well have a say what’s going on,” Morrow said.
Plus, new homes and new residents could benefit Cicero’s restaurants and retail stores.
“I welcome it as long as it’s controlled,” Morrow said.
“A lot of people who are speaking against it are like me, they’ve been here all of their lives … a lot of people speaking have been here for the past 30 or 40 years,” Morrow said. “...If you look at what they were doing five years ago, Arbor Homes, to what they’re doing now, there was no buffering, there was no park space, there were no sidewalks. It’s totally different.”
Morrow said, “We have people who want to live in Cicero, but there’s just no place for them to go,” Morrow said. “We don’t have a (Ind.) 37. We don’t have a (U.S.) 31 going through our town. We’re never going to have Kroger. We’re never going to have the Lowes. We’re never going to have the Best Buy. It’s never going to happen in Cicero. So, I love that aspect of being in a small town is we’re not going to have those big-box stores and we’re not going to have the traffic that comes with all of those ….”
He pointed me to Cicero’s assistant fire chief Steve Smith, who lives in Noblesville because he couldn’t find a house in Cicero. Smith has read a lot of negative feedback on the proposed community on social media, which he calls “a toxic place.” He said, “...I think it’s great that they’re out there venting and expressing their concerns and coming to a place to talk about.”
But Smith is very opened-minded about the neighborhood. “When I was looking for a home, there were no homes in my price range in town … I think it will encourage people to move from existing homes into new homes and then bring new folks into more affordable housing.”
While he knows that new homes and more people will bring a need for more police and firefighters, he said the Town Council is working on addressing those needs.

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.