Brownstown council to retain plan commissioner

BROWNSTOWN

The man who helped establish zoning in the county seat will continue his work for another year.

The Brownstown Town Council recently voted to retain Ben Lewis as the town’s plan commissioner and pay him $6,000 for the year.

Lewis started in that position in June 2015, a couple of months after having to resign as a town councilman because he moved out of his ward.

The council agreed to have him serve as the plan commissioner since he had done a lot of work on the zoning ordinance and map.

From the start, Lewis has said it’s not his intention to serve in that role for much longer than a couple of years and the council would have to eventually hire a full-time licensed building inspector.

But knowing he spent time and the town spent money creating the ordinance and map, Lewis said he didn’t want the plan commissioner position to dissolve.

“I am willing to do another year of service. I am going to sit here and say for a fact this next year may be my last year. I’m not doing this forever,” he said during a recent council meeting. “From my perspective, where my heart’s at and how much work I’ve put into this, I’m not really ready to just turn it over until everything is done and done right.”

When the council initially decided to hire Lewis, no one else on the board wanted to take on the work he had done.

“We looked around and tried to find someone to do this on a part-time basis, and we could not find anybody,” council President John Nolting said.

“Ben spearheaded this, and he was by far the most qualified for this position he’s got,” councilman Bill Sweeney said. “There wasn’t another person on the board that could have even come close to doing what he’s doing.”

The council spent some time discussing whether to pay Lewis the same rate as this past year, which also was $6,000. While he realized it was up to the council to determine that, Lewis said he wasn’t interested in doing the job for any less pay.

During his tenure as plan commissioner, Lewis met with the plan commission while creating the zoning ordinance and map and developed the documentation for building permits and applications.

After zoning went live, he was responsible for reviewing building permit applications and presenting them to the plan commission and board of zoning appeals. He serves as a liaison between those two boards and the town council.

He continues to prepare for and attend meetings twice a month, and he has begun working on an audit of every property in town.

“My time on the council plus the zoning work, it was a full-time job for me to do both,” Lewis said. “Now, it is a pretty hefty second job.”

Lewis and the two boards also are working toward open discussion about possibly establishing extraterritorial zoning authority, which could create a zoning fringe outside of the current town limits. The purpose would be to promote and foster future growth in the town.

“That’s going to take some time,” Lewis said. “Some real thought has to go into that.”

If you go

The Brownstown Town Council meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month at Brownstown Town Hall, 200 W. Walnut St.

The town’s plan commission and board of zoning appeals meet at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at town hall.

Agendas of all meetings are posted on the town hall front door ahead of time.

Meetings are open to the public and press.

Information: 812-358-5500

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