Council OKs zoning change for storage units

BROWNSTOWN — The town council recently approved a zoning change to allow for the construction of 20 storage units on Brownstown’s west side.

Conner Barnette, the town’s planning and zoning administrator, told the council during a meeting at the town hall that Matt Boknecht had recently purchased four tracts of ground at Francis and Commerce (U.S. 50) streets with the intent of developing it commercially.

The rezoning request is for all four tracts, although the Seymour businessman’s present plans only call for the construction of 20 units for Jackson County Storage on a 1.471-acre tract at 420 S. Francis St. at this time.

Barnette said the town’s plan commission gave a favorable recommendation to Boknecht’s request to change zoning for the property from residential 10 to highway business during a meeting in August.

In an answer to a question from Councilman Tim Robinson, Barnette said Boknecht did not plan to put any storage units along the property fronting Commerce Street and did not plan to obtain access from Commerce Street to the storage units.

Barnette said no one spoke in favor of or opposition to Boknecht’s request during the town plan commission meeting Aug. 23.

According to the construction design plans filed with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security building review department, the storage units would be in a 2,500-square-foot building. The project would not require any employees.

The council passed the rezoning request on first reading by a 3-0 vote. Councilwoman Crystal Stuckwisch was absent. The second reading is slated for the council’s meeting at 6 a.m. Nov. 7.

In an unrelated matter, Councilwoman Sharon Koch asked Barnette how much the county set aside each year to demolish homes on blighted properties.

Barnette, who also is the county’s building commissioner, said the county budgets $20,000 each year for the work.

The town council is in the process of putting in place a property maintenance ordinance to deal with blighted properties with an eye on a couple of properties, prompting Koch’s question.

Barnette said if nothing else, the ordinance, which mirrors the county’s ordinance dealing with blighted property, could include if nothing else fines for those with blighted property or property not been taken care of properly.

“If they don’t take action, you could fine them and they can pay them or if they can’t or don’t want to pay them, (the property) is going to go on tax sale in 18 months,” he said.

Barnette said if nothing else, the property would then at least change hands.

“Right now, I feel like there is no mechanism to put pressure on them if the property is blighted or not being maintained,” he said.

Barnette said the county fines property owners $100 a day for 10 days and $200 for the next 10 days with a cap of $3,000.

He said the county can do about three properties a year with $20,000 depending upon on the home.

“It just depends upon the bids coming in,” Barnette said. “We usually take three to five of those.”

Later in the meeting, Koch’s motion to set aside $20,000 to demolish dilapidated houses was passed 3-0.

Barnette also recommended the council consider implementing a building code that would allow it to have someone inspect new construction to ensure footers, foundation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and others items meet construction standards.

He said at this time, the town doesn’t inspect new residential housing construction, but there are some pretty good contractors doing those projects.

“Right now, I don’t think it’s a horrible issue,” Barnette said.

He said he would be willing to serve as the code enforcer because there are only a half-dozen or so new homes built in town each year. He added he could only do the inspections when he was not working for the county.