(BEDFORD) - Two words dominated a meeting last night intended to discuss the future plans for Bedford and Lawrence County: "planning and zoning."
More than 40 people arrived at the Persimmon Room at the Bedford Comfort Inn yesterday evening to see the results, so far, of the basic vision for the future of Lawrence County and the City of Bedford.
Those 40 included civic leaders such as Mitchell Mayor Dan Terrell, County Commissioners Chris May, David Flinn and Bill Spreen, and others.
And the overall "big idea" of the plan was to both create a place where people want to live, and to make sure Lawrence County is prepared for Interstate 69 when it passes through Greene County near us.
Nature trails, cluster developments, road expansion and redevelopment and links to the interstate were all on the menu last night.
Some members of the crowd, including Tug Beale of northern Lawrence County and Norman Deckard of Monroe County expressed concerns over using abandoned rail lines as pathways for nature trails for a number of reasons, including crime concerns, maintenance costs, and the rights to use the railroad easements.
Beale compared the trails to the "limestone pyramid" boondoggle that has haunted Bedford for years. Deckard said he brought a similar case from Monroe County all the way to the Supreme Court, which reportedly ended up deciding Monroe County couldn't just seize abandoned rail lines. Another participant, Millard Jones of Lawrence County, was concerned over the use of eminent domain in the development of the trails. RATIO Architects, Inc.'s Kevin Senninger, the presenter of the plan, assured the crowd, however, that eminent domain would not come into play for the trails.
However, the development of zoning in Lawrence County, which is one of only 13 Indiana counties without any zoning or planning laws, was the biggest issue of the meeting, and one that got more positive reviews than many participants expected. At one point, Senninger asked for a show of hands to see who would be in favor of exploring the idea further, receiving at least half of the crowd in favor, and only 1 person in opposition.
Lawrence County Councilman and Economic Growth Committee Secretary Gene McCracken addressed the gathering on the issue, saying Lawrence County's lack of zoning and planning is costing the county jobs in terms of businesses not moving in. McCracken said a company is not going to build a $6 million plant in the area if they don't know who their neighbor is going to be, saying it could be another factory, or it could be a junkyard.
However, all those involved in presenting the plan wanted to make sure it was understood that, should Lawrence County enact zoning laws, that the county, itself, is in charge of them, and not any outside forces. Senninger says Lawrence County zoning could be as lax as it wants to be, or it can be as strict and stringent as it is in Monroe County, depending on what Lawrence County denizens decide on.
Concerned citizens can see a full .pdf copy of the plan here.
Due to reports of website instability at the above link, WBIW News plans to make a locally hosted copy of the full plan available for download here, on WBIW.com, shortly.
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