The Washington Times-Herald

September 9, 2013

Commissioners table zoning proposal

By Mike Grant
Times Herald

---- — A sweeping ordinance to bring zoning to rural and unincorporated areas of Daviess County was presented to the Daviess County Commissioners at Monday's meeting, but was tabled for at least another two weeks. The ordinance was put on hold after questions were raised about coal mining and outdoor advertising provisions.

"As a mining company we had some concerns," said Michael Owens with Solar Sources. "We have sizable land holdings and investments in the county and want to be certain we can access those."

The county's planning advisory committee has worked two years and held at least a dozen meetings preparing the ordinance, but received very little public input. It wasn't until the new law was ready for the commissioners to vote that objections began to surface. "That's the way all of it has gone," said Commissioner Michael Taylor, who was a member of the advisory committee. "I can see where we may need to make some adjustments."

Solar Sources asked that some changes be made to expand the special use provisions that allow for mining. Under the proposed ordinance, a special use could only be obtained on land that is zoned agricultural. "We often have mines that will take in some homes," said Owens. "The mining exception needs to include residential and other possible areas."

The company also wanted clarification on property that is part of inactive mines. "We have a couple of those in the county. Inactive mines would be grandfathered in," said committee chairman Dennis Helms.

Solar Sources also wants to be certain the news zoning lawas will force them to spend more money. "We've done a lot of work in Vigo County and have spent a mint on legal fees for coal we already have commitments on," said Owens. "We don't want to spend money to mine land we already have leases on."

Opening new areas for mines under leases though may be a little more difficult that re-opening inactive facilities. "Lease areas would not be grandfathered in," said Helms. "Those would have to change to reflect a change in the use of the land."

Another area of concern was the flood plain provisions in the ordinance. "What we do in mining would violate the flood plain rules," said Owens. "We already have to get a permit from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to operate in a flood zone."

"We talked about that and we don't need to be any more restrictive than the state," said Helms.

Local officials believe they can work out most of the kinks the mine company has questions about. "Mining is a big industry here and we don't want them to feel unwelcome," said Taylor. "We can straighten this out."

The county is also being asked to take an additional look at the provisions concerning outdoor advertising and billboards. "We see some problems between the language and the tables," said attorney Harry Hanson, representing J.R. Promotions. "The business is changing and the illuminated signs part may need to changed to take into account some new LED lighted signs, and we see a couple more things we would like to see adjusted."

The handful of last minute objections was enough for the commissioners to put off a final decision for now. "We don't want to undermine the work the advisory committee has done on this," said Commissioner Tony Wichman.

Rather than have the entire advisory committee meet again and work through the potential revisions, Taylor, Helms and County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber have been assigned to work out the issues and bring them back before the commissioners at their Sept. 23 meeting.

"I think we nailed it," said Taylor. "I am happy with what we have done. We can make a couple of small changes."

In other business the commissioners agreed to purchase new snow removal equipment for the courthouse.

The also approved reimbursement to Daviess County Rural Water of $67,308 for moving water lines along CR 900E. The county will receive $53,846 from the state to cover that cost.

They also agreed to pay a construction inspection bill of $15,149. The county will get a reimbursement from the state of $12,119 for that work.

The also voted to pay a bridge reinspection bill of $5,320 which will include the state paying back $4,256.