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The George Washington of Avon?

Bill Bailey, a founding father of Avon’s incorporation, recalls the ups and downs of incorporating into a town 25 years ago 

By Gus Pearcy

Twenty-five years later, there is still an emotional catch in Bill Bailey’s voice as he retells the story of the day he had to withdraw the resolution to make Avon a town from the Hendricks County Commissioners’ agenda. After months of preparation, hours before the Hendricks County Plan Commission and arguing with people opposed to incorporating Avon, Bailey was supposed to go before the commissioners, he learned of a problem, and not all future residents received the certified letter.

“The day that they were to vote on Avon becoming a town, before they started proceedings — I always get emotional about it,” Bailey said before pausing. “Before they started the proceedings, I asked to be recognized and I respectfully withdrew the petition.”

He laughs now, but it belies the emotion of that day in 1995.

“There was a silver lining because we got it taken care of, 30 days later, we went back in and bang,” he said as he snapped his fingers. “They voted yes.”

On Nov. 30, Avon will celebrate its 25th anniversary as a town. Bailey is like the George Washington of Avon. He doesn’t want any credit as a founding father, but starting a town — even for an Avon native — was not easy.

“Really, it’s kind of humorous,” Bailey said as he starts. “It sort of came up over a card game one night.”

According to the legend, Bailey and his poker-playing buddies lamented the lack of a package liquor store in Avon that sold cold beer.

“The only way that you could have a package store with cold beer was if it was located in an incorporated community,” Bailey said. “The closest was Coach and Horses (where Panera Bread is now on Rockville Road).”

Cold beer wasn’t the only reason to incorporate. Bailey said the area wanted local control of planning to protect home values, what he called the largest investment most people make.

“Without having local control, there was no way to protect that investment,” Bailey said.

While Avon was a school district for generations, the area was still under the jurisdiction of the county. By the 1990s, it was becoming the darling of the development community. Community leader and real estate agent Orville Woody had attempted to incorporate Avon, with the boundaries being all of Washington Township. Bailey said that was never going to work because of the amount of tax money the county would have lost immediately.

Woody came to Bailey, an Avon native and third-generation business owner, to ask him to take up the charge. Bailey’s father, Bill Sr., was part of a committee that investigated incorporation back in the 1960s. Back then, the area was too rural.

Already occupied with Acme Masking and family, Bailey felt like if he didn’t step up, Avon was going to cease to exist. He still has a cartoon a friend of his drew of a Quaker, bulldog and Native American warrior chief sitting around a table, knives and forks in hand, ready to devour a steaming pie called Avon.

Of all the documents required, the hardest to get was going to be a certified survey of the proposed community. Township boundaries were easy to use for incorporation but had already failed. So, Bailey had to come up with a smaller area that had already been surveyed. He cobbled together the surveys of the service area of the West Central Conservancy District and the Oak Bend subdivision where he lived. However, there was a small problem.

“The only problem I had was a small gap between the conservancy district and Oak Bend,” Bailey said. “In order to fill that gap, I had to go to about four or five homes…I went to each one of those homes, which I knew three out of the five, probably well, and asked them if they would consider being a part of the Town of Avon. And if so, would they consent to giving me a survey of their property.”

Significant opposition to incorporation existed, and things got ugly, Bailey said. His business was vandalized.

“Literally, I had dead animals laid at the front door of the offices,” Bailey said. 

Simultaneously, the school district was preparing to build the new Avon High School, which significantly raised taxes during incorporation. Many residents thought the reason taxes went up was the move to make Avon a town.

During this tumultuous period, Bailey found an ally in his quest, Avon’s first town attorney Allan Yackey. As the story goes, Bailey was attending an informational meeting to explain his views in favor of incorporating. A significant number of detractors were also there.

“There was a gentleman that I didn’t know at the time,” Bailey said. “He was quasi-vocal on why the town should be incorporated and he was making comments about it. Someone came up to him at the meeting and put his hand on his shoulder.”

The Yackeys had moved to Avon in 1991. He was a small business lawyer who heard of the move to form the town and was in favor. He said the meeting organizers were against the idea of the town and weren’t willing to listen to the pros. Yackey stood up and said the First Amendment did not allow them to squelch any speech.

“You cannot tell someone they cannot express an idea,” Yackey recalled.

That was when one of the organizers grabbed Yackey by the shoulder and told him to sit down and shut up.

“I just turned around to him and said, ‘You realize what you just did?’” Yackey said. “He looked at me and I said, ‘Once again, do you realize what you just did?’”

Yackey said it was assault and the detractors sat down.

“I thought to myself, right then and there, I got to go meet this guy,” Bailey picks up. “Immediately, I said, ‘I’d like you to be the town attorney. Would you be interested?’”

It was a move that would define Yackey’s career. Since then, he has specialized in municipal law and was consulted around the state.

“Avon became successful enough and of sufficient notoriety that I started getting calls from people that wanted to create towns,” Yackey said. 

Once the commissioners approved the incorporation, then the real work began. There was a convention to elect the first town council. Bailey invited U.S. Representative John Myers to be the keynote speaker. The town had three districts. Bailey was elected the first president of the council. Also elected as the inaugural council was Jeff Haviza and Debra Tucker. Lois Murphy was the first clerk-treasurer.

Yackey had to come up with a set of ordinances by the time the town took over. All of his work was on account, on account the town had no money. He did the work anyway and collected later.

Weekly meetings were the norm on Thursday nights for the newly-knighted council. The town had to get a loan from a local bank for a quarter of a million dollars.

Yackey left in 1998. Two years later, his wife, Eva was elected to the town council and helped to build the police station. They have two 4-inch binders filled with newspaper articles about those first few years. Only recently has he started to look back. Suddenly, the brass plaques with his wife’s name mean something.

“Recently, we had the grandkids with us, and we were walking up (to the town hall) and they said, ‘That’s our last name,’” Yackey said.

For his part, Bailey feels he was right to get the town incorporated, but he admits it made him a target for negativity. After three years and a letter to the editor attacking his kids, Bailey quit and says he hasn’t really looked back.


Avon’s next 25 years

With history comes perspective of the future.

Avon Town Council President Greg Zusan says the future of Avon is diversifying the tax base.

“Right now, we are about 84% residential,” Zusan said. “We need to get that balanced.”

Zusan is pushing for more commercial and industrial development, citing Avon Landings – the town’s new business park along the Ronald Reagan – and undeveloped land along County Road 100 S.

“That’s key for us,” Zusan said.

Avon is landlocked. Nearly all available land to the town is already annexed. So increasing the assessed value of the Town of Avon will have to come from more expensive housing or commercial and industrial development.

“You’re also able to generate personal property taxes in addition to real estate taxes,” Zusan said. “You’re going to provide jobs which will generate income tax.”

Another goal of Zusan’s is to unify town and township government.

“I think by doing that, we may be able to offer more services,” Zusan said adding there are some annexation opportunities within the township. “Those unincorporated areas would become Avon.”

Being such a new municipality, Avon could not establish its own utilities and typically has to contract out for other services. The town has a police department, parks and trails, and maintains roads.

These challenges mean creative solutions. One tactic is growing the value of single-family homes.

Despite the chorus against growth, Zusan said Avon must continue to add homes.

“You can’t just turn the spigot off,” he said. “If we do, we’re going to lose out on any opportunity for commercial and industrial because they need workers, so we need single-family homes.”

Newly-appointed Town Manager Ryan Cannon said the town will continue to invest in infrastructure; build sidewalk and trail connections; and update zoning ordinances.

“Our value is that we are in the middle of everybody and our retail quarter has been really good,” Cannon said. “We’re realizing that we are quickly running out of developable land. So we have to increase the assessed value of what we have left.”

Increasing the assessed value is crucial to future financial support for the town. Cannon agrees with Zusan’s opinion of growth. He said town’s die if they have zero growth.

“At some point, we’ll get there,” Cannon added. “It may be 20 or 30 years from now, but if we wait 15 years to start being concerned about it, it’s going to be too late.”

Cannon has been with Avon 21 years, hired within a few months of the first Town Manager Tom Klein. He developed the town court, the first town website and a complaint system for residents.

He said residents may not be aware how fast Avon grew in the first few years.

“People forget what it was like before,” Cannon said. “Do you know (County Road) 100 S. and Dan Jones (Road) used to be a 4-way stop? And traffic used to back up all over. People don’t remember because it’s been a roundabout for so long,”

Cannon said establishing Avon helped create several projects that have made the area better. He said until the bridge on Avon Avenue over the railroad tracks used to be something residents complained about for 35 years.


In Avon’s 25-year history a total of 22 citizens have served as town council members.

Avon Town Council members 


William Bailey Jr.

Debra Tucker

Jeff Haviza

Larry Caskey

Mike Childs

Chris Settimi

Jim Tygrett

Anne Beck

Dave Cox

Dave Jackson

Eva Yackey

Karl Buetow

Michael Rogers

Kathryn Miller

Greg Zusan

Nikki Gordy

Charlie Dorton

Marcus Turner

Aaron Tevebaugh

Steve Eisenbarth

Dawn Lowden

Robert Pope


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