Council OKs variance for business in residential zone

BROWNSTOWN

The Brownstown Board of Zoning Appeals recently received its first request since zoning went live in the county seat at the beginning of the year.

Teena Schulz asked for a land-use variance of a home at 424 E. Commerce St. to open a flea-market type business, changing the zoning designation from R10 residential to HB or highway business.

A joint meeting of the board of zoning appeals and plan commission was conducted at Brownstown Town Hall to review the application submitted by Schulz and her husband, Joe.

After both boards reviewed the application and answered questions from a neighbor, they passed a favorable recommendation on to the town council for final approval. The council unanimously approved the variance.

Ben Lewis, the town’s plan commissioner, said the variance is in effect as long as the Schulzes own the business. If they decide to sell the property, it would fall back to R10 residential.

The town’s zoning designations are R5 and R10 residential, industrial, downtown business, highway business and mobile home.

Lewis said one of the neighbor’s questions involved property value impact. Using the county GIS system, the Schulzes looked at other areas of town where businesses are implanted in a residential area to determine if property value went up or down. Lewis said there was no evidence of negative impact.

The neighbor also asked about traffic and public safety with the business being at the corner of Base Road, which leads back to Brownstown Elementary School. Lewis said the boards found no evidence of danger.

“There’s a police officer present directing traffic in the a.m. and p.m. at Base Road and Commerce when school is in session,” Lewis said. “Zoning authorities don’t feel risk of public safety, and likely business hours will not be at peak hours of school traffic.”

Another question was if any business would be conducted outside, and the Schulzes said all of it would remain inside.

The final concern was about parking to the west of the property. Lewis said if the Schulzes plan to add parking, they would have to apply for a permit and have it reviewed by town officials. At this time, though, they don’t have any plans for parking on that side of the business.

Council member Bethany Brewster asked Joe Schulz about plans for signage, saying anything placed along Commerce Street could block the view of motorists pulling out of Base Road. Schulz said his wife hasn’t come up with a name for the business yet, so they haven’t thought about signage.

Schulz also said they may cut down trees along the road so it’s easier for motorists to see at the intersection of Commerce Street and Base Road.

According to the town’s zoning ordinance, a building permit is required when any permanent changes are made to the footprint of a structure, including adding a room, a sign, a fence, a porch, a swimming pool, a garage, a shed or a parking lot.

Building permit applications are available at town hall. A commercial building permit is $100, and a residential building permit is $75.

With the application, a person must attach a site plan that includes documents such as architectural drawings, a sketch, a blueprint and a surveyor’s study. A brief description of the building work also must be provided.

Lewis reviews all applications and determines if they meet the guidelines of the zoning ordinance.

If a proposal does, a permit will be issued. If it doesn’t, the application will be reviewed by the plan commission, board of zoning appeals and town council. Lewis said he won’t have any voting authority.

For those who violate the town’s zoning ordinance, there is an immediate $75 fine and then a $25-per-day fine until the issue is rectified.

Lewis said the plan commission and board of zoning appeals requested a note be placed on upcoming sewer bills to remind residents and businesses that the town has zoning and building permits in place.

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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.