The Washington Times-Herald

January 18, 2014

Learning curve is big for new planning and zoning

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — The new Daviess County Zoning Board of Zoning Appeals is in place and getting ready to make decisions. The county BZA has chosen Darren Helms as chairman, Don Kelso as vice chairman and hired Jeff Norris as attorney.

"We are absolutely dealing with a learning curve here," said Helms. "We need to look over the application forms, get all of the paperwork in order, and review the maps so that we can make informed decisions."

The BZA was put into place to deal with building issues in the county that may arise as part of the newly enacted county zoning maps. The zoning ordinance became effective January 1. Much of the leg work for establishing the zoning board was done by the Area Plan Advisory Commission. The commission spent two years holding public hearings and researching rules. "We put together some forms to get the BZA started," said Area Plan Commission President Dennis Helms. "The board can fee free to change them."

The BZA has decided to review the forms and the by-laws before accepting them and putting them into place.

While the Zoning Board had no requests for variances or special exceptions at their first meeting, they are anticipating some initial problems in getting the public used to the idea of filing for building permits. "I think enforcement could be a nightmare to begin with," said Norris. "We need to reach out to the builders in the area and make certain they know that they will now need permits. We need to reach out to the key players in the area, get them on board and aware of this. It could save some headaches for everyone down the road."

The city of Washington has had zoning for many years and the town of Montgomery has its own zoning maps. The ones for the rest of the county are new. Most of the unincorporated areas are zoned agricultural, but farm construction is expected to generate a lot of the work for the new zoning board. "I think they will see a lot of requests for variances and special exemptions especially for things like confined feeding operations," said Daviess County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber.

"It was not our intent to prohibit those types of things," said Dennis Helms. "Now with the BZA in place people will have a forum to discuss better ways and places to put them into place.

The county has tried to simplify the process. The Washington Building Commissioner's office is a central point of contact where people can find out where they fall on the zoning maps and what forms and permits they will need. The county has also set flat fees for construction projects.

The Daviess County Board of Zoning Appeals will be meeting on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Commissioner's room in the courthouse. "There's some education that needs to be done," said Darren Helms. "We are just here to protect the public."