The Washington Times-Herald

August 30, 2013

Rural zoning ordinance ready for commissioners

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Daviess County officials are ready to pull the trigger and put county-wide zoning into place. The Planning Advisory Committee has spent two years and gone through six drafts and now is ready to send a final version of the ordinance to the county commissioners at their next meeting. The ordinance covers all of the unincorporated areas in the county that are not currently under zoning.

“I have to say we tried to promote what is already happening in the county,” said committee chairman and County Surveyor Dennis Helms. “We set up most of the county to be agricultural to let it continue that way.”

Daviess County is one of the final seven counties in the state without county-wide zoning. The change came as a result of development of the WestGate@Crane Tech Park and the opening of I-69. “It was started in the studies prior to the I-69 construction,” said Helms. “It’s something we considered and worked on for 4 or 5 years.”

“Companies coming into the Tech Park needed some protection for their investments,” added Commissioner Mike Taylor, who is a member of the Advisory Planning Committee. “You just can’t do zoning in one area. We had to cover the entire county.

The maps associated with the ordinance create new commercial areas along the I-69 exits at Crane and Odon. The interstate exit at U.S. 50 is already covered by Washington’s zoning ordinance. The county’s zoning adds some commercial areas at the other exits and puts limits on billboards and off-premises advertising. Most of the land now is used for farming. “The zoning will not change the taxes on that land,” said Helms. “The taxes will only change when its use changes.”

A previously passed local law that keeps adult entertainment and businesses away from the exits will remain in effect. Currently, they are only allowed in flood plain districts. “We wanted to ban them altogether,” said Helms, “but with the state law we couldn’t, so, we made them as restrictive as possible.”

While some measures are restrictive, the ordinance is fairly lax when it comes to farms. “We’re probably the least restrictive law in Indiana on agriculture,” said Taylor. “We tried to protect farmers and keep it as simple as possible. We don’t want to run people’s property.”

The ordinance even has extra provisions protecting farm operations. One part warns people who move into homes in areas marked agriculture that they should expect potential livestock smells, chemicals and dust associated with farming. “We want to protect our ag heritage,” said Helms.

The new ordinance will not mean any immediate changes. “All of the ways property is now being used will be grandfathered in,” said Helms.

The ordinance headed to the commissioners for their Sept. 9 meeting is not set in stone. The public can review it at the Auditor’s Office. “I wish people would have been at the meetings to comment on it,” said Taylor. “It’s been a long process. If people have an opinion they can look at the ordinance and then contact their commissioner.”

“The commissioners can either accept, reject, or send it back to the advisory committee for more revisions,” added Helms.

Once the ordinance goes into effect the county will have some other tasks. One will be to establish a board of zoning appeals. Another will be to hire someone to handle the permitting, act as a liason, and investigate possible violations.