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Greene County Plan Commissoners May Not Approve Zoning Ordinance

Last updated on Sunday, January 27, 2013

(BLOOMFIELD) - Providing there isn’t a big change in philosophy toward land-use planning among the majority of the three Greene County Commissioners, the days could be numbered for an active role of the Greene County Advisory Plan Commission.

Nick Schneider, of the Greene County Daily World reports, the Plan Commission met Wednesday afternoon for the first time since November, hoping to gain the endorsement from the commissioners to a draft land-use planning or zoning document that has been a work in progress since 2010.

Greene County is only one of eight counties among the 92 in the state that does not have some kind of land-use planning.

However, new commissioners Nathan Abrams, from District 2 and Ed Michael, representing District 1, viewed the draft for the first time Wednesday and both said they need time to read the proposed ordinance before making a decision.

The commissioners will make the ultimate decision on whether the county engages in land-use planning.

Plan Commission member Paul Trampke, who serves as Jackson Township Trustee, said he hoped to get a commitment from the commissioners to proceed and noted that he hoped the completed zoning document was not going to be something that was "going to sit on the shelf and draw dust."

Abrams, who was appointed to the Plan Commission, replacing commissioner's president Rick Graves, was attending his first meeting.

Beech Creek Township Trustee Otto Prow, a newly appointed Plan Commission member who replaced Rob Kendall, was also attending his first meeting.

Both Abrams and Michael said before the November election they did not favor land-use planning, and Wednesday they echoed their feelings with some temperament.

Abrams said it was not appropriate for him to comment on the proposed land-use planning document because he had not read it, but he did say, "I've always been against some kind of land-use control. But there might be something in there (the document) that we would use ... I will give it a legitimate look."

Before the election, Abrams told the Greene County Daily World, "This county can not afford zoning. You can't have a little bit of zoning. It's an evolution and it always gets bigger. It can start out with the best intentions, but 20 years from now what's going to become of it? It's better to do nothing than make a mistake with it."

On Wednesday, Michael said he feared the potential amount of bureaucracy that would be created if the zoning ordinance was adopted and he wonders how the county is going to pay for its enforcement.

Before the election, Michael also voiced opposition to zoning, even though in the beginning of the discussions, he said he saw some reason to like the idea along the I-69 corridor.

"My biggest fear is being like Monroe County," Michael said, referring to the stringent land-use control in place in the neighboring county.

Current Plan Commission President Garry Heshelman reviewed the history of the effort to draft a land use planning document for the county.

He said the original plan was to basically "spot zone" along the I-69 Corridor, however, state officials said that couldn't be done. Instead, the entire county had to be zoned or none of it.

The Plan Commission then drafted a plan that made either residential, agriculture or business development designation areas throughout the county.

At the urging of the county commissioners, there was also an effort to get the zoning issue placed on the ballot last year for a county-wide referendum vote.

Last January, District 62 State Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) introduced HB 1017 that asked for a referendum on the November ballot.

However, that effort was stopped when the bill didn't even get a committee hearing as some lawmakers noted that this was a local issue and the state was not going to get involved by approving a referendum.

As a companion document, the Plan Commission has also drafted a Subdivision Ordinance that would govern residential subdivisions containing five or more homes, which could be passed whether the zoning ordinance is approved or not.

If the commissioners do not endorse the land use planning ordinance, the active work by the Plan Commission will become dormant.

By statute the group will need to meet annually to reorganize and elect officers, but no other meetings need to be conducted unless a matter that needs its consideration surfaces, according to Heshelman.

The Plan Commission members had also planned on Wednesday to annually reorganize, and elect officers for the current year.

However, the reorganization was not included on the advertised agenda so that action had to be delayed until the next meeting slated for 4 p.m. on Feb. 20 in the third floor meeting room at the Greene County Courthouse in Bloomfield.

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