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1:29 p.m. - October 24, 2006
No Planning And Zoning? No Thanks!
It's election time here in BFE land (well it's an election year everywhere in this country of ours) but this year some local races are piquing my interest.

Actually one race is: the race of Montgomery County Commissioner.

The mayor of my fine city is not up for re-election, but he'd lose big time if he was running now. Basically, he's wasted a lot of money on consultants, announced he wasn't going to run for re-election, then three months later changed his mind, has bungled in trying to explain why a certain zoning district is good for the city without scaring any landowners, and has accepted the 'resignation' of the only sane person in his government (the one who CAN explain the overlay district) over an incident about a month ago - when he himself wasted more of our taxpayers money in setting a sexual harassment lawsuit.

It seems that he wanted to give his assistant some additional briefs, as it were, and I think she likes boxers.

I knew the mayor in high school, and well, he made me seem like Joe Cool. So I wasn't shocked. I was actually shocked that he wasn't still living at home.

But the reason for my rant that follows is not the mayor, but as I said it's the Commissioner's race.

Now, earlier, I expounded upon the Drainage Board earlier, and the Commissioners are all on said So I'm not going to run for it.

But I'm astounded at who is running for it, and what he believes in.

There are three County Commissioners, and one of them is up for re-election this year. He is an "Independent", basically I think because he ran against the one thing that both the Republican and Democratic candidate stood for, and he used that one issue to win the election.

When he was elected before, I was commuting in from Zionsville, and one day I saw a billboard near the entrance of town that announced he was running for Commissioner. It said he was an "Independant". Yes, that's right.

It took about a month before that was corrected. And somehow, he won. And it's all because in a three way race, he used the one issue to gain a plurality.

The issue is planning and zoning.

And he's against it.

Now, I'm a lefty (well, a lefty compared to the rest of BFE land) and I mostly associate with Democrats. I'm for butter, not guns. I'm for lending a hand to the poor and indigent. I'm for strengthening public schools, not weakening them. I'm for adults to make their own reproductive choices, and not having meddlesome busybodies tell women what to do. I'm for adults in loving, committed relationships to have access to joint benefits.

I don't like the idea of guns, but I recognize the need for sportsmen to use firearms and I also can see people having a gun for protection at home. Yet some of the guns and ammo that are being sold are way way over the top for personal protection and should be outlawed.

But I do believe in personal freedoms and civil liberties. I believe that basically, you should have the right to do with your property what you want to as long as it doesn't infringe on the greater good of the community.

That last part of that sentence is why we need sensible planning and zoning.

If I'm an entrepreneur looking to place a business somewhere, I really want assurances that my neighbors will be desirable, complimentary businesses. Or at least in the ballpark. I don't want to place a business where the property next door could morph into a feed lot, or a large scale pig farming operation, or a landfill.

Yet without planning and zoning, that could happen.

The City of Crawfordsville has zoning, and while it does limit what people can do with their property, it makes sense. You really don't want to have businesses in residential areas (though some are grandfathered in) and there are some things that just need to be placed in very select locations.

But Montgomery County has no planning and zoning, and so you can do whatever you want with your land.

This has inhibited growth, not encouraged it.

There are three interstate interchanges in this county. One of them falls under the zoning jurisdiction of the City, and it is a typical interchange with hotels, restaurants, and yes, a strip club. But that property is a perfect place for a strip club, because it's away from the interstate a bit, and there are no residences nearby at all.

One of the interchanges had a couple of gas stations at one point, and now there is a large truck stop there. The other interchange has nothing.

That large truck stop took over a big piece of farmland, and the residents next door now have to put up with a constant stream of trucks and lights that probably make it seem daylight 24-7.

It's not like the exits are in bad locations. They're on I-74, and there is plenty of truck and car traffic on that highway. But between the US 231 exit (that falls under the auspices of the city) and Danville, Illinois, there are hardly any businesses, and it's mainly because there is no zoning in those counties. So anyone who wants to put a business there has to be wary, because anything could go in next door.

In Fountain County, there’s a large fireworks store right off the exit in Covington. Now, if you were someone who wanted to put up a gas station, would you want to be next to a fireworks store? That doesn’t sound like a healthy combo, if you know what I mean.

Here in this county, there was a firm that wanted to put a waste transfer station across from that new truck stop. Well, the residents around that area raised a stink, as it were. But the Commissioners were powerless. The company agreed to put the transfer station away from the interstate as a goodwill gesture, but there was nothing stopping that transfer station being placed next to some country homes.

All along the interstate system, the trend it seems is that entrepreneurs buy abandoned gas stations or properties on the cheap, and transform them into adult bookstores. Now I have nothing against the adult entertainment industry, but I wouldn't want to be neighbors with a peep show. Now, out by the interstate may be a good place for one, but I can't see someone who wants to put a family restaurant wanting to have an adult bookstore as a neighbor. I mean, Maude may not want to go out and eat at Cracker Barrel if she sees "XXX ALL NUDE" next door.

So that's in the back of the minds of business owners. If there’s no zoning, there's no control on what business will pop up next to them. And if someone buys the old Brinson Farm and turns it into a factory pig farm operation and the wind always blows the stench in a certain direction, you certainly don't want your shop to be downwind of that, do you?

I don't think planning and zoning should be onerous. Give the people some idea on what can be expected on this parcel. Away from populated areas and main roads, sure, be lax on it, just as long as the greater good is served. But in order to grow as a county and get the businesses and industry to locate here, you need to have some direction and order and controls. Otherwise, they won't come here.

Most of the people against planning and zoning are afraid that they won't be able to sell their land if there’s restrictive zoning. People, your land isn't going to be worth that much if no one wants to buy it.

Boone County has planning and zoning in the county, and it is growing like mad, and it's the right kind of growth now, too, with homes and small businesses and industries popping in and wanting to locate there. But right now, there's not much of that in this county.

It’s time for people to embrace the new paradigm of land use and land ownership, and get some sensible planning and zoning. Otherwise, I fear this county could wither and die. And that wouldn't be good for anything.


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