Brownstown appoints planning and zoning administrator

BROWNSTOWN — An interlocal agreement between Brownstown and Jackson County for a planning and zoning administrator for the town expired at the end of 2021.

Since then, the Brownstown Town Council has worked to fill that spot so residents have a go-to person to apply for building permits and get questions answered and so the town has someone to handle zoning and code enforcement.

Conner Barnette, the county’s building commissioner, had served as the town’s plan commissioner since June 2018. The interlocal agreement allowed him to take care of his duties as Brownstown’s plan commissioner while working for the county.

That agreement also meant the town no longer needed to have its own board of zoning appeals and plan commission, as the county BZA and plan commission would review building permit and special exception applications for the town.

When the council reached out to Barnette earlier this year, he had set up Hoosier Planning Associates LLC so he could do work for the town outside of his regular business hours working for the county.

After tabling the matter twice, the council unanimously voted during a recent meeting to hire Hoosier Planning Associates as the planning and zoning administrator for 2022.

That’s contingent upon new town attorney Zach Miller reviewing the contract to ensure it lays out the scope of work and having both parties sign it. The annual salary will be $12,500.

“I would like to tell him that we are going to agree with something in the near future and that we will compensate him for the calendar year for the work he is doing,” said Councilwoman Sharon Koch, noting she would contact Barnette after the meeting to let him know his company has been hired by the town.

Residents were being sent to the town hall to pick up building permit applications, but once the contract has been signed, they will go through Hoosier Planning Associates.

So he avoids ghost employment, Barnette told the council that his company would do work for the town between 4:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. That’s outside of his 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. shift with the county.

At one point, the council discussed having Barnette train Tom Martin to assist with his duties for the town. Barnette, though, told council President Gregg Goshorn and Councilman Mark Reynolds that due to his limited time, it would be easier to just do the work himself.

Goshorn said since Barnette knows all of his duties for the town, it’s good to keep that consistency. Koch agreed.

“He does an excellent job. He really does. He does a great job. He has for years,” she said. “He has done a lot of work technology-wise, and he has given data and everything on thumb drive and paper, but there’s a lot to it. At some point, we need to expand that position.”

Expansion would include inspections and code enforcement, possibly hiring a clerk to help.

“That’s another level we need to be at,” Koch said. “We have codes now, so the next step is enforcing what we have. These are all things we need to discuss and come up with.”

Reynolds said Barnette told him he could do inspections.

Over the years as plan commissioner for the town, Barnette rewrote and condensed the town’s zoning ordinance and put it under a Brownstown tab on the county website, updated building permit forms and put them on the county GIS website, added a Brownstown zoning layer to the GIS map and established building permit fees.