The Washington Times-Herald

February 18, 2014

Zoning board still getting on ground

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Daviess County officials are still working through the details on the development of area zoning maps and the operations of the new zoning law. The zoning maps went into effect Jan. 1, and the laws concerning construction throughout the county are now being enforced. Still the county is feeling its way through the changes.

Among the officials trying to figure it out is the county council which is providing the funding. At its last meeting the council approved $12,000 for work to be done by the area plan director for the first six months of the year. The county is utilizing the Washington building commissioner as a plan director and starting point for people looking to build.

“We don’t know exactly how many hours he will be spending working on county issues,” said County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber. “This is just an estimate. They are keeping track of the time spent and if there is a need for more money we may have to adjust it later in the year.”

“As far as cost and operations we are feeling our way along,” added County Council President Jo Arthur. “Everyone understands there is a need for flexibility.”

The area plan advisory commission spent two years and held many public hearings before the new ordinances went into effect. They are still fine tuning some of additional elements. The A.P.C. is currently considering some adjustments along the Bennington Levee that are designed to protect it from construction projects.

While government officials are getting a feel for the operations the community is also beginning to realize there is one more layer of paperwork that has to be cleared before construction can be done. “We’ve had a few complaints now that it is in place,” said Swartzentruber. “We had an impromptu meeting with several contractors who were upset about it. We talked with them and once they understood it they seemed to be okay.”

“It’s new and there are a lot of misconceptions,” said County Councilman Kenneth Soliday. “I think it is a good ordinance but it is going to take some education.”

The new planning and zoning ordinance is also affecting other portions of local government. The county commissioners have begun forwarding all notifications of state permits on to the board of zoning appeals to make certain those projects go through the proper local channels.

“It’s a learning curve for the area plan commission, the board of zoning appeals and the public,” said Arthur. “It’s going to take a lot of work to make this effective.”

The county wide zoning was spurred by the construction of I-69. Officials felt the need to protect land owners from unregulated projects along the new highway but by law could not limit zoning to those areas.

“I think it was done right, especially in terms of existing businesses and farms,” said Councilman Mike Sprinkle. “It was zoned to protect those in place. Zoning can prohibit growth, but that isn’t the case here. We can build and we can grow. You just have to learn the rules and follow them.”