Several people were present at the Washington City Council meeting Wednesday night to oppose an ordinance that would clarify the zoning status of 868/906 S. SR 57.
The ordinance was introduced at the council’s May 14 meeting, and many of the same people were on hand at that meeting, as well, to oppose the action. The contentious issue arose when it was discovered there was an error in the corporate boundary in that area and the Washington Plan Commission requested a boundary clarification.
“It was corrected, so that left the issue of how to zone it,” explained Building Commissioner Chris Wimmenauer as he described the situation and pointed out the affected properties and boundaries on Thinkmap.
The front of the property, owned by Thaddeus Rusk, is currently zoned C4 — highway commercial district — but the back is zoned “preservation.” Rusk and the Plan Commission would like the entirety to be C4. Rusk told the assembled group he uses one of the two buildings on the property and leases the other to a mechanic.
Those opposed to changing the zoning are surrounding residents and Conservation Club members concerned about how the currently preserved property would be used if switched to commercial.
“It’s peaceful and quiet,” said Jackie O’Bryan, who owns an adjacent property. “I’d like it to stay that way.”
She added that wildlife and land preservation are important to her — a common theme among those who spoke up.
“I’ve lived there since 1983,” said Carl Brown, who lives on a nearby residential street. “I enjoy the deer coming into the yard ... I’m afraid, if they zone it C4, what (business) will come out there may affect property value.”
Forrest Fields and Greg Mundy are Conservation Club members opposed to the rezoning because they believe it might adversely affect the club.
“I’m the president of the Conservation Club,” Mundy said. “It doesn’t border the Rusk property, but the neighbors do, and they’re opposed.
“There’s no information on why it’s preserved ground to begin with, but I believe it should stay that way.”
According to city officials, the preservation zoning designation showed up first in 1992 on a map, but there’s no legal description of it. City engineer Ed Barnett said he believes the zoning was residential prior to the preservation designation.
“A table of uses doesn’t exist for this use,” city attorney Tim Dant said of the preservation designation. “Preservation isn’t even listed in the zoning ordinance ... In theory he could put anything on that property.”
Council President Allen Brown questioned why the councilmen would make a zoning change without complete information such as the definition of preserved land.
Ultimately, the ordinance failed in a 5-2 vote, with Brown, Eric Bassler, Joe Fleck, Jerry Sidebottom, and Jim Greene voting “no” and Blake Chambers and Mike Singleton with “yes” votes.
Later, a motion was made and approved to look into the preservation designation and decide whether to define and keep it or to eliminate it.
In other business:
• A resolution was approved to move budgeted funds from the police department’s debt services fund to the machinery and equipment fund so the department’s new vehicles can be outfitted with the necessary equipment and signage.
• Mayor Joe Wellman gave his report, telling the assembly there are still some plumbing issues at Eastside Park, but they’re being addressed, along with an algae problem in the lake. He added that Waterworld is open and a few kinks are being worked out.
Wellman also announced German American Bank is sponsoring a litter pickup day June 16 as a fund raiser for local nonprofit groups. It will begin at 8 a.m. in the People’s Plaza parking lot.
• City Utilities office manager Anita Ash announced that Energizing Indiana has a new program for nonprofits, in which they can earn $25 for every energy audit they set up.
“It would be a really easy fund raiser for whoever wants to do it,” she said.
• Bids were opened for the demolition and removal of a structure at 306 N.W. 11th St. Rex Gress and Sons had the only bid, at $3,800. It was referred to the Board of Public Works and Safety, where it was later approved at the recommendation of Wimmenauer.
• A three-year loan was approved from Old National Bank to finance an animal control van. The rate was 2.28 percent, compared to 2.9 percent at German American.
• The board of public works approved two agreements with Midwestern Engineers: one for a water system study, and one for an annexation study.
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