Officials simplify zoning ordinance

In life, simple is better.

That’s the approach Jackson County officials took in updating the zoning ordinance and zoning map for unincorporated areas of the county.

County Building Commissioner Conner Barnette received input from the county plan commission, board of zoning appeals and commissioners in making the updates.

Since the ordinance and map were established in 1958, it had been amended a couple of times before this year.

Barnette said the process started in March 2016. The lowest quote they received to do the work was $40,000, so they opted to do it all in-house and at no cost to the county.

“One of our concerns was when you hire these companies out of Indianapolis or Michigan or Terre Haute or wherever, it’s pretty cookie cutter. They pull it from their template,” he said.

“So doing it in-house, the plan commission has been instrumental in it, the board of zoning appeals, the commissioners. We’ve had a lot of input,” he said. “We had a steering committee, and I think we’ve got something really good that pertains to Jackson County. It was just time for a refresher. We’re really excited to get it adopted and start moving forward.”

A public hearing was conducted Oct. 17, and the plan commission gave the ordinance and map a favorable recommendation that night and passed them on to the commissioners for final approval. Barnette expects it to be officially adopted during their Nov. 7 meeting.

From that point on, any structure constructed, renovated or altered in unincorporated areas of Jackson County must adhere to the zoning ordinance and map.

“Anything existing will be considered nonconforming use, so it is legal,” Barnette said. “Moving forward, the changes will be adopted.”

There are now seven zoning districts, which is half of what previously was in place.

Those include Agricultural, Forest and Recreational, Residential 1, Residential 2, Lake Residence, Business and Industrial. Each of them are defined under the “Zoning Ordinance” tab on the planning and zoning department’s website,

“A lot of what we’ve changed is just a lot of cleanup,” Barnette said. “It was pretty messy. It was pretty hard to follow. You couldn’t really find what you were looking for unless you knew where you were looking.”

The new ordinance has a table of contents, which wasn’t included before, and the districts are separated by chapter.

“If you know what zoning district you’re in, you can go straight to it,” Barnette said. “Your use chart is there on what is permitted and what is not permitted.”

Previously, there were two agricultural districts and four residential. Barnette said there wasn’t much difference between all of them, so they simplified it by cutting both in half.

Also, business was broken down by local, highway and general. Now, it’s all just general business.

“There was no reason to have 14 zoning districts when we could break it down all in seven,” he said. “And the uses between the 14 weren’t huge, so why have 14?”

Chapter 8 of the ordinance includes the use regulations.

“So if you put in a mobile home or a temporary occupancy or a confined feeding operation, you can go straight to a section and get all of your information there rather than having to thumb back and forth and thumb through,” Barnette said.

Fewer zoning districts resulted in a new zoning map being adopted.

Before, Barnette said that map had block zoning, so they weren’t individualized by parcels. Now, every parcel has its own zoning.

“It’s picking up every single parcel and what we zoned it,” he said. “That was a pretty big project. That took us two or three months just to go through and rezone every parcel and then clean it up and make sure we did it right.”

Another big change with the map was building in the floodplain, which is determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“When they updated in 2014, it was wrong, so we had an overlay that we put over top of that, but it was just messy. You had parcels that had been taken out of the floodplain that were still zoned floodplain even though they weren’t in,” Barnette said.

“Now, every parcel is zoned, and then we take FEMA’s overlay layer and put it on top of the zoning map,” he said. “So if they update it in 2018, we can delete that, put ‘18 in and we never have to change the map, so that was big.”

Barnette encourages people to check out the website and Jackson County Planning and Zoning on Facebook for the zoning ordinance and map and other information.

“I’m really trying to get as many people on there as we can because that’s how people get their information now,” he said.

The next step is putting a building inspector in place. The county council recently approved contracting it out as an hourly part-time position for now.

“I’m taking a few classes right now, and I’m going to shadow whoever we hire to do that with the possibility of me taking that role on as well as what I do now,” Barnette said.

To start off, only new residences will be inspected, including footers, drywall, electric and plumbing. The inspector will ensure all necessary permits have been obtained and everything is going in legally.

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For information on the new Jackson County zoning ordinance and zoning map for unincorporated areas of the county, visit or check out Jackson County Planning and Zoning on Facebook.