Zoning plan officially dead

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The Switzerland County Area Planning Commission officially repealed the 2008 Comprehensive Plan and readopted the 1996 Comprehensive Plan at its meeting last Wednesday night, bringing to an end a document that filled the community with controversy and anger.

Building Commissioner Mark Archer said that Planning Commission attorney David Hickman then made a presentation to the board concerning a resolution to establish a citizens advisory committee. That committee will review the 1996 Comprehensive Plan and also the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, and identify areas of concern.

That committee will then report back to the planning commission as the process begins to write a new comprehensive plan that will be approved by the county.

Mark Archer said that in the coming weeks there will be the opportunity for county residents to volunteer to serve on the citizens advisory committee, which may be limited in some way, possibly having each township represented by two committee members.

None of the details of the committee or its makeup have been finalized at this time.

With the repealing of the 2008 plan, the county now reverts back to the 1996 plan and its policies and regulations. The county will remain under the 1996 plan until the findings from the citizens advisory committee are presented to the Area Planning Commission and a new Comprehensive Plan is adopted.

“The bottom line is, everything still has to be in compliance with the Indiana code,” Mark Archer said. “The biggest thing with the 1996 code is that we are going to have to adjust the lot size, because the health department now requires two septic sites on a piece of property before a landowner can build. That’s a state regulation.”

Mark Archer said that it may be difficult for landowners to find two septic sites on the rolling land of Switzerland County in order to be in compliance with state law, so families wishing to build may have to have a larger building lot in order to meet those state requirements.

“Right now the current size out in the county is 1 1/8-acres,” Mark Archer said. “But when the county health department amended its septic requirements, we had to go to a policy of ‘subject to septic approval’ out in the county, because you could have 10 acres out in the county and not be able to get a septic site if it’s all on a hillside.”

Mark Archer also said that enforcement of the codes found in the 1996 plan are also an issue, because there are no real penalties in the 1996 plan if a person is found to be in violation of the planning and zoning codes.

“The whole thing was when we started working on the 2008 plan, how do we get enforcement in there without having to go through the court system, because the county court has a lot of things going on that come before enforcing zoning laws,” Mark Archer said.

“The bottom line is, we’re never going to make everybody happy,” Mark Archer continued. “But then again, if people would take a little pride in what they’ve got, we wouldn’t have to re-write all this stuff. We’re trying to protect the value of people’s property.”