Council approves zoning ordinances


For the first time in its nearly 200-year history, Brownstown will regulate where housing, businesses and industries may be located.

The process to establish zoning began nearly four years ago with the election of four new town councilmen.

Early in their terms, the four — John Nolting, Ben Lewis, Dustin Steward and C.J. Foster — decided they wanted to try to put together some simple zoning regulations that would be easy for everyone to understand. Longtime Councilman Bill Sweeney joined that effort.

One day short of the next town election, councilmen approved a final version of just such an ordinance. That ordinance will become effective once it’s advertised.

“This has been a long time coming,” Nolting said during Monday night’s council meeting at town hall.

Steward and Lewis have both left the council since earlier this year and have been replaced with Bethany Brewster and Sally Cate Lawson. Brewster was the only council member to face opposition in Tuesday’s election, and voters opted to return her to office.

Lewis, however, has agreed to be the plan commissioner for the town and oversee the implementation of the planning and zoning ordinance that eventually grew to 110 pages.

That’s a much longer version than what Lewis had been talking about when he first started pushing for the ordinance.

At that time, he said he would like something that would be easy to understand and less than 30 pages.

The final version, however, contains 20 pages dedicated to flood plain regulations required by FEMA and the final 10 pages are related to definitions. Six pages deal with signs and the town already had an ordinance in place governing those issues.

Lewis, who attended Monday’s meeting, said a lot of the additional pages include definitions, and Foster agreed.

“It’s pretty simple,” Foster said.

The ordinance requires permits for the construction, addition, alteration, removal or demolition of a building or structure and provisions about dealing with violations and remedies.

A plan commission has already been put in place, and the town council also has appointed a board of zoning appeals.

Copies of the ordinance and zoning map are available at town hall.

Lewis and the plan commission have gone through every property in town and zoned them to what their use should be according to its current use and size of the lot. The zoning designations are R5 and R10 residential, industrial, downtown business, highway business and mobile home districts.

Lewis also will work on developing supplemental documentation and forms for the ordinance, including building permits and applications, variance applications, special exception applications and request for hearing applications.

He will be responsible for surveying any forms filed and ensuring they are in accordance to the ordinance and map.

In the future, there will be applications and permits for anyone wishing to build in town.

The forms also could be available in electronic version on the town’s website, which is currently being developed.

When Lewis was hired as the plan commissioner, he said he would attend plan commission, board of zoning appeals and town council meetings when zoning is on the agenda, serving as a liaison between the parties.

Lewis will be paid $6,000 for a year and expects to work about 20 hours per week. He said he doesn’t foresee his position being long term, and he told the town council a part-time plan commissioner/building inspector may need to be hired two or three years down the road.