The Paper has learned that a threatened lawsuit is behind a draft of a zoning ordinance being considered by the Montgomery County Commissioners.
According to County Commissioner John Frey, this had to happen right now.
“The threat of a lawsuit from the wind energy folks was the driver to initiate the immediate adoption of this ordinance,” Frey explained. “As you can see, the proposed ordinance follows the ‘will of the people’ as stated in our comprehensive plan. You will also notice in that same vein, the overwhelming majority of our agricultural lands will stay exactly as they are today. I stated from the outset that people needed to participate in the comp plan process. It is the tool that all elected should follow now, and in the future.”
Commissioners president Jim Fulwider said that he wouldn’t comment on possible litigation.
“I think we have a difference of opinion there, any time we are talking about possible litigation I won’t comment on that,” Fulwider said.
The Paper obtained a copy of the proposed ordinance Wednesday. A copy of the full ordinance is included with this story online at www.thepaper24-7.com
“It’s no different than any other zoning ordinance. It gives us some ability to have protection. It’s going to help in economic development situations,” said Fulwider. “A lot of times when talking about economic development they want to know if there’s a zoning ordinance. I think it will help in those situations.”
Terry Hockersmith is president of the Montgomery County Council and a member of the planning commission. He’s openly opposed zoning throughout his time as an elected official. He said it’s not entirely clear how the council might factor in to the ordinance.
“The only role that the council would have is to fund any of the expenses of enforcing it. Mostly legal fees,” Hockersmith said. “We haven’t been presented with a budget or anything for what this is going to cost. If they enact it then people will have a chance to ask for a variance, which would require a lawyer to be present.”
Fulwider said that the ordinance will help the county take back control of the two-mile zone around Crawfordsville that’s currently zoned by the city.
Hockersmith said that he thinks there are four members of the council opposed to zoning. With that majority the council could prevent funding from being approved.
“I don’t know when they’ll start needing funds really to put this into place. It’s all happening pretty fast,” he said.
Hockersmith said that ultimately it will be up to the commissioners to determine how the Board or Zoning Appeals (BZA) is formed. The BZA would rule on variance requests.
“My request to the commissioners – and I made this – I’m also on the planning commission and we will either give it a thumbs up or thumbs down on April 24. My only request is that the BZA in each township be made up of the township trustee and his or her advisory board and a commissioner that represents that district,” Hockersmith said. “Those are the people that are closest to the ones in the township and they’re elected officials, not appointed officials.”
Fulwider said that the members of the BZA will be appointed and that it’s regulated by state statute.
“There’s a lot of ideas about how people want that made up but ultimately it’s all by statute,” he said.
Hockersmith was the only member of the planning commission to vote against the Comprehensive Plan, saying at the time that it was a prelude to zoning.
“Another thing that’s been running through my mind since I heard this, the commissioners just adopted the plan Monday and here we are two days later with a 53 page zoning ordinance to vote on,” he said. “We were told as a public that this wasn’t a zoning thing it was a plan thing. To get a 53 page zoning ordinance ready in two days is amazing.”
Hockersmith said he plans to voice his opposition to the ordinance at the planning commission meeting.
“It’s something that will infringe on the rights of the property owners. Right now those living in the unincorporated areas can do anything they want to that doesn’t harm their neighbor with a health hazard or nuisance,” he said.
In Wednesday’s edition of The Paper, a legal advertisement for the plan commission showed that an April 24 meeting will be about the ordinance. The notice reads:
“The Montgomery County Plan Commission will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. to consider the adoption of a proposed Zoning Ordinance for the County. The meeting will be held in the Crawfordsville Municipal Building’s Council Chambers, 2nd floor, 300 East Pike Street, Crawfordsville, Indiana 47933. The proposed Zoning Ordinance, if adopted, will apply to all unincorporated areas in Montgomery County. The proposed Zoning Ordinance establishes agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial zoning districts in the unincorporated areas of Montgomery County. The proposed ordinance also establishes procedural rules for applications for rezones, text amendments, appeals and enforcement. The proposed ordinance also establishes permitted uses, special exceptions for use and development standards for each district. The proposed ordinance also establishes a board of zoning appeals which has jurisdiction over administrative appeals, variances and special exceptions. The proposed ordinance also establishes regulations for wind turbine zoning, siting, set-backs, and other matters. The proposed ordinance provides that wind turbines are allowed only as a special exception in industrial districts and are not permitted in other zoning districts. The proposed ordinance establishes other rules and regulations to provide for efficient development of land in Montgomery County.
Attempts to reach commissioner Phil Bane and Akuo Energy