Couple plan business on river

BROWNSTOWN

An Elizabethtown couple’s dream of a business along the northeast side of the East Fork White River just west of Brownstown began with big plans.

Along with seasonal nightly camping and canoe and kayak rental, Joseph E. Braughton Jr. and his wife, Kealy, considered offering flat-track racing, a mud pit and other recreational activities.

But once they spoke with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, they scaled it back to just camping and canoe and kayak rental. They found out about the regulations they had to follow and permits that would need to be obtained. Plus, the business would be in a floodplain and floodway.

“When you start in something, you look at all these big dreams, and it’s like, ‘We can do all of this. It’s our property,’” Joseph Braughton said. “But we’re wanting to keep it simple. Our main objective is right now to get making some money and get campgrounds down there.”

The Braughtons, represented by attorney Jack Gay, recently proposed their idea to the Jackson County Plan Commission.

That board had only five of its nine members present, so after more than 30 minutes of discussion, the members decided to pass the proposal on to the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals with no recommendation. The zoning board will discuss the request during its meeting at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown.

Currently on the 14.59-acre property are two cabins, two septic system tanks, two wells and roadways. Kealy Braughton said one of the cabins would be used as an office, while they would improve the roads with gravel, and they would not use the septic tanks or wells.

The Braughtons also discussed putting portable toilets on a temporary structure that could be moved if needed and be placed out of the flood area.

Gay said the Braughtons understand the biggest problem is placing a business in a floodplain (an area that is subject to flooding) and floodway (an area that regularly floods). He added they also know they have to comply with state and county regulations.

“We understand we can’t construct things, we can’t excavate, we can’t cut timber,” Gay said. “It’s a natural area, and quite frankly, they want to keep it a natural area. That’s part of the beauty that they want their customers to experience when they come here.”

Plan commissioner Dan Blann said one of his top concerns is that the business would be in an area that quickly floods after a heavy rain.

“I don’t know that there’s any place along the river that rises as fast as what that stretch of the river does,” Blann said.

Kealy Braughton said she routinely monitors data and would know if flooding could affect the property. In the event of a flood, she said customers would be notified, the business would be closed, and kayaks and canoes would be put on a trailer and taken to their home.

In his everyday work with Foresight Land Surveying, Blann said, he knows how difficult it is to obtain permits in a floodway. He said the difference between a floodway and a floodplain in dealing with the DNR is “night and day.”

“They don’t just hand these things out like driver’s licenses. It is one of the hardest things to get,” Blann told the Braughtons. “The plans that you have to put together and submit to the DNR, it’s very in-depth, and that’s a very hard permit to obtain, a construction within a floodway permit, to do some of these things.”

Gay said that’s why the Braughtons decided to scale back their plans.

“We’re just here to get the authority hopefully (this) spring to start putting some canoes in the river down there and let people float down the river, have a good time and enjoy Mother Nature without a lot of interference from anyone,” Gay said. “We want to keep it simple, get them open and let them bring some revenue into Jackson County and hopefully some tourists and people who will spend a little money down here.”

Blann said that, while he is all for camping and other recreational activities and he appreciates people with entrepreneurial vision, he isn’t sure whether a campground is needed in the area, especially with Starve Hollow State Recreation Area being nearby.

Gay said the Braughtons want to give it a shot.

“Nobody knows if this is the place for it or if it’s the right market because of the river, but it sounds to me like they are willing to take a chance and see,” Gay said. “I don’t know that it’s up to this board to conclude that this isn’t economically feasible and not give them the opportunity to pursue that dream.”

Plan commission member Sherry Bridges said she didn’t think the concern had to do with economics but rather putting a business in a floodway.

Blann added that the board has had discussions in the past about people wanting to put a garage, house, farm or hog building in a floodway. However, Gay said the Braughtons wouldn’t be building any structures.

Joseph Braughton said he has obtained a limited liability company license under Braughton’s Playground LLC, and he would carry insurance on the property.

If you go

What: Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10

Where: Jackson County Courthouse, 111 S. Main St., Brownstown

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