Council continues to study zoning issue


The five new members of the Seymour City Council want more time to study the impact of a proposed ordinance that would add institutional zoning to the city’s code.

On Monday, the council voted 5-2 to table the issue and have the board’s planning and zoning committee look into it further. Councilmen Dave Earley and Jerry Hackney, the only returning council members, cast the dissenting votes.

If approved in its current form, the ordinance prohibits criminal justice or rehabilitation facilities from being built within 600 feet of residential areas, schools, churches and parks.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

Other changes include minimizing curb cuts or driveways on primary and secondary arterial streets to 900 feet apart and increasing road pavement thickness from 3 to 4 inches on roads and alleys that have trash pickup.

The Seymour Plan Commission began studying institutional zoning in September 2019 and drafted the ordinance, which was presented to the council in November. The council approved the ordinance on first read at the Dec. 23 meeting.

Councilman Bret Cunningham asked if approving the ordinance on second read would impede efforts by the county and local developer Andy Royalty to build a work release center in Seymour.

Royalty is scheduled to go before the board of zoning appeals Jan. 28 to seek approval for a land use variance to build that facility on Dupont Drive on the city’s east side.

Earley said the ordinance would not change that process but would eliminate an existing loophole that keeps such matters from coming to the council for approval.

“This is something that should have been tied up a long time ago. Yes, it can be built there, but it would have to have a variance, and that is what they are seeking now,” Earley said.

“My fear is that we may be taking too big of a step in making this all-encompassing,” Cunningham added.

J.L. Brewer, director of Jackson-Jennings Community Corrections, said he is against the 600-foot requirement for criminal justice or rehabilitation facilities.

That’s because people on home detention, who would be candidates for work release, already live in Seymour neighborhoods and spend time at local schools, churches and parks.

“I worry about the message that passing an ordinance like this sends to the BZA,” Brewer said. “How do they perceive that if this passes? I feel like that could spell disaster for the facility.”

Dave Eggers, vice president of the plan commission, helped create the ordinance and attended the council meeting to answer questions.

“This ordinance encompasses and ties together so many loose ends in the city’s master plan,” he said. “Most importantly, it gives code enforcement to the city for things that currently aren’t in our plans. Operations like the work release center would never have zoning according to the city’s current plan.”

Councilman Drew Storey said the ordinance is “aggressive,” especially in the 900-foot separation between driveways on main streets.

That amendment was created with the new Burkart Boulevard south bypass in mind, said city engineer Bernie Hauersperger.

If a vehicle is traveling 50 or 55 miles per hour, the 900-foot separation provides 11 seconds of distance between driveways, which will make the new corridor safer, he added.

Attorney Jeff Lorenzo, who represents Royalty, said he is against the ordinance as it stands, but not because of the work release center.

“I believe the work release center can go forward regardless of this ordinance,” Lorenzo said. “You don’t get to change the rules in the middle of the game when we’ve been playing for the last two and a half months and then tell us there’s a different set of parameters we need to meet.”

Lorenzo believes the ordinance does more than tie up loose ends and creates issues the city will regret in the future.

He said the 900-foot separation clause might make sense on the Burkart Boulevard bypass, but it doesn’t apply to U.S. 50 or other corridors in the city.

“That part of this ordinance, I don’t think, belongs here if what you’re trying to do is create an institutional category,” he said. “If what you’re trying to do is clean up loose ends, do that in another ordinance, but don’t throw them all in the same piece of legislation.”

Lorenzo said there a lot of issues that are not addressed in the city’s zoning code.

“If you are going to address deficiencies in the code, then let’s do it in a matter that makes sense within the context of what we’re dealing with,” he said.

He suggested the council separate the institutional zoning category because it will have an effect on not just the work release center but on the hospital, schools, day care centers, the homeless shelter and public buildings.

“You don’t know yet what impact this ordinance is going to have,” he said.

Lorenzo said he would like to see the city create a map with zoning overlays to find out which properties would remain that would qualify for institutional zoning.

“You haven’t done that yet,” he said.

He is concerned the ordinance will create a prohibition on institutional zoning and take away statutory authority from the board of zoning appeals.

Royalty said he agreed the city was trying to roll too many issues into one ordinance.

As a developer, Royalty said his concern is how the ordinance impacts future development on both the north and south sections of Burkart Boulevard.

“Going to 900 feet, you’re going to force a developer to put in a frontage road on both sides of Burkart,” he said. “You’re going to have to have 2 or 3 acres of property for it to make sense for your driveway.”

He said the ordinance is not ready to be passed.

“If you want to stop development in Seymour, I would tell you to go ahead and pass this, if that’s your goal,” he said. “But if you want to see Seymour continue to grow as it has, I think you need to go back to the drawing board and start over to figure out what we want each one of these things to look like.”

No posts to display