The Washington Times-Herald

October 19, 2013

U.S. 50 corridor plan brings county, city officials together

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Between the city of Washington and the town of Montgomery a large part of the U.S. 50 corridor is now under some type of planning and zoning.

Washington’s maps now reach from the White River to CR 450E and Montgomery from the east side of Country Oaks Golf Course to the Montgomery’s wastewater treatment plant on the east side of town. Washington officials expanded the planning zone earlier this week about a mile and half outside of the new city limits. “We did talk about going the full two miles,” said Washington Mayor Joe Wellman, “but that would have put us in the middle of the golf course. We felt it was better to stop at a natural line.”

That means for now the area of the golf course and a handful of homes are the only areas between the two communities that don’t fall under some kind of planning jurisdiction.

That will change this January when the new Daviess County planning maps go into effect.

“We hope that eventually one of those communities would expand and take in that area,” said President of the Daviess County Advisory Plan Commission Dennis Helms. “We had not considered it a lot. We just thought Washington and Montgomery would want to look at it. That would put three jurisdictions right there at the golf course and that could be confusing for developers in the future.”

Planning and zoning efforts have expanded during the past couple of years. Montgomery put maps into place about a year ago. Daviess County will begin in January and while Washington has long had zoning the recent annexation to the east has expanded its reach. “State law gives cities and towns the authority to extend their planning areas and build in buffer zones,” said Wellman. “It helps control future growth and development.”

With the opening of I-69, community leaders believe the U.S.50 corridor will become the focal point for future development in the area.

That makes planning and zoning important. “If you are trying to attract a large new company to your community, they won’t go into an area that isn’t zoned,” said Ron Arnold with the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation. “They don’t want to invest millions into a project and then have something totally inappropriate move in next door. The establishment of zoning in the area is a good thing for economic development.”

Development along I-69 is something Washington wants to see. “It’s all about how we want to see our community grow and develop,” said Wellman.

“It gives you the opportunity to put things together that belong together. It protects both current property owners and those in the future.”

Officials believe that eventually the growth and development coming off of the interstate will head their way. They see zoning as a way to protect property owners in the future. “A lot of people get tore up about zoning,” said Montgomery Building Commissioner Jeremy Wininger. “It’s really about protecting their property. If it begins growing here we can have some leverage to protect people, make certain there is room for further development. It’s really about protecting people’s property down the road.”

The growth of the zoning maps may make for some confusion in the future for people looking to build and develop land.

That has the city and county looking at a joint effort to try and simplify the process. Talks on how to do that will be the focal point of a meeting Monday night at the Daviess County Courthouse. “We’re meeting with the city to see if we can come up with one place that will be an initial point of contact for people looking to build and develop,” said Helms.

“We’re trying to hammer out the details on that,” added Wellman. “We are trying to set up a single spot so that people aren’t running around between the city and county trying to figure out who they have to deal with.”

That kind of single stop could prove helpful as the county deals with larger developers. “We are really hoping it can become a one stop shop,” said Arnold. “We want to fast track and simplify as many things as we can for the developer and just try and coordinate as much as we can up front. That saves them time and time is money.”

Local officials say that none of the maps they have now are carved in stone and there will be opportunities for people to change them. “The main message we want people to get about zoning is that the maps reflect what we think people will want to see,” said Wellman. “If someone owns property and has a different idea then they can take it before the zoning board or the plan commission and we’ll talk about it.”