We would like to provide an update on Switzerland County Planning and Zoning.
It has been quite some time since we (The Switzerland County Citizens Committee) started the process of drafting a new Comprehensive Plan to be used as a guide for development of new or revised zoning, building, subdivision and other codes and regulations for the county.
The committee was formed after public rejection of the plan and regulations produced a few years ago and known as the 2008 plan. That plan went far beyond what is necessary for our county and far beyond the authority of appointed or elected government. Issues and circumstances that led to the attempt to revise or replace the 1996 regulations however do remain.
A new plan as presented to the public in the newspaper over a year ago is available for viewing on the web at www.switzcoplan.wordpress.com.
This plan, after a number of reviews by the Area Plan Commission has at last been approved by them at their meeting on January 16th of this year. Additionally the plan has been reviewed by attorneys for the Commissioners and Council and the County Auditor has received emails from each of them indicating they see no legal concerns in the plan.
Following approval by the Plan Commission on January 16th members of the advisory committee again presented the plan to the county commissioners at their meeting on February 4th.
With approval of the plan from each of these bodies and on their request the advisory committee is moving on to produce a "scope of work" document detailing the steps to complete the entire process.
The plan lays a basic foundation of what regulations should apply in our county. It does not in itself contain any of these regulations. The plan as defined in Indiana law serves as a general guide on issues such as, but not limited to, zoning maps, zoning districts, building codes, economic development, environmental protection and enforcement provisions.
This is a long process involving the committee, the commissioners, the planning commission and members of the public. We have started preliminary work on producing the scope document and will continue to seek input from our local government and you.
This "scope document," after review and approval by government officials, will be used to estimate the expense to produce the full set of regulations and ordinances that will then replace the 1996 code. When we have a solid description of what we need and how much it will cost, then the commissioners, planning commission and county council will have what they need to decide how to complete the process.
It is important to note that the plan as drafted and approved does not address specific needs of the incorporated towns. The law allows and we encourage the towns to produce any special plans or ordinances that may be needed within their respective jurisdictions.
In addition to any exceptions or additions to the plan the towns should be aware of the need for accurate maps of their jurisdictions. In the event the towns decide to take responsibility for additional areas surrounding their limits, as allowed by the law, they should define those areas as well. Citizens in areas surrounding the towns should be aware of this.
We recognize due to denser population and development that the towns may need more restrictive regulations. It is our hope however that they will follow some general themes of the county plan in being respectful of individual rights and in encouraging private business and economic development not so much by incentivizing with public funds or preferring one type over another but rather by simply getting out of the way.
The county plan hopes to achieve this with simplified zoning and minimal regulations, permitting or licensing requirements. The county plan specifically mentions agricultural, recreational and environmentally friendly enterprises because of the existing rural and agricultural nature of the county. It is our belief that these offer the best chance of development and expansion of economic opportunity for local citizens while at the same time preserving the rural and natural nature of the county.
We also believe this type of development, once achieved has the best chance of attracting attention of visitors and tourists thereby further expanding economic opportunity for our citizens. While these are specifically mentioned the plan does not seek to restrict or eliminate other business.
The Citizens Advisory Committee has been meeting consistently since the failure of the 2008 plan. In that time we have had constantly changing attendance. People come for a meeting or two to ask questions or express concerns but don't become regular members. There is no audience at our meetings, if you come you are part of the group and your voice is heard.
We recently welcomed some new members to the committee.
Representatives of The Switzerland County Farmers Alliance came to express concerns with the existing 1996 regulations. The alliance is a group of individuals working to organize specialized agricultural producers and to increase marketing opportunities including an expanded farmers market. They hope to both grow participation within their group and develop agro-tourism within the county.
The existing 1996 regulations threw up an unnecessary and expensive road block to their efforts by insisting they rezone their property. This is exactly the kind of opportunity killing regulation the new plan eliminates and we were happy to be able to demonstrate where in the plan these types of issues would be addressed.
We look forward to continued input from this and other groups as we work on developing the scope document.
The Citizens Advisory Committee continues to meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the town municipal building on Seminary Street in Vevay. Everyone is invited to attend. If you can't attend meetings you can also make comments or ask questions at the web address above. We do occasionally skip a meeting so if you would like to attend please send an email to email@example.com. We use this address to send meeting reminders and notices of a canceled meeting. This email address is the only means we use for general notices and communications.