Brownstown takes next step toward zoning rules

BROWNSTOWN

The county seat is another step closer to establishing a zoning ordinance.

Eric Kelly of Ball State University and Duncan Associates provided advice to Brownstown Town Council members Tuesday.

The town has appointed seven people to a plan commission. The next steps are to hire or designate a town planner and appoint five members to a board of zoning appeals.

The planner would lead work sessions with the plan commission in developing the ordinance.

“You need the plan commission because it needs to recommend the ordinance to the council. The BZA you only need for appeals,” Kelly said.

He added that, with the work he has done, he would hope there wouldn’t be any appeals.

“What happens sometimes with a new zoning ordinance is there are a lot of nonconforming situations where the zoning doesn’t fit what’s out there,” Kelly said. “I spent a lot of time with your maps online so that there would be virtually no nonconforming situations.”

In finding a town planner, Kelly suggested hiring someone on contract to work around 10 to 15 hours a month. That could be someone with experience in planning or engineering or it could be someone in-house who could be trained.

“They don’t have to have a lot of background if they are willing to learn,” Kelly said. “If that person doesn’t have a professional background, you probably should get somebody to come in and do a training work session.”

Kelly said he would help the town find someone to fill the town planner role, and he recommended including K.K. Gerhart-Fritz of Indianapolis in training sessions since she has planning experience.

Council member Ben Lewis said it’s possible to have an extra meeting each month to work on the project. The town council already meets on the first and third Mondays of the month.

Kelly has looked at Google maps and the county’s GIS system to create the zoning district. He created commercial zoning for the downtown area and highway commercial zoning, which includes gas stations and restaurants along the main road through town, for U.S. 50.

The only residential zoning in the downtown is for those living on the second floor of buildings.

Kelly recommended that, when those involved sit down to look at the town map, they circle areas they know are residential and commercial. Then, they can pinpoint any areas of uncertainty.

“You’ll make the meeting simpler if you just focus on areas that really need discussion,” he said.

Once that work is done, he said, a public meeting should be conducted so community members can listen and provide input.

“They may see something you all don’t see,” Kelly said. “If people have concerns about what you’re doing, let them talk, too. Listen to them. It can be very helpful.”

After that, the plan commission would recommend the map and ordinance and vote on them, and both then would move on to the town council for adoption.

Kelly said the map needs to be passed at the same time as the ordinance.

“The map is really a part of the zoning ordinance,” he said. “It’s a law, so it needs to be adopted in the same way that you all adopt any other ordinance.”

Council President John Nolting said he would like to have the map and ordinance adopted by the end of June. Kelly said he thought that was realistic.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.