Wind issues were blown away from the Henry County Commissioners’ agenda Wednesday night by concerns over planning commission matters.
Terri Roberts, a former zoning administrator, had harsh words for Darrin Jacobs, the one who now holds that title, about the current practices of the commission and a proposal to form a new, authoritative-style of zoning governance. When contacted Thursday by The Courier-Times, Jacobs answered Roberts’ concerns about current practices and said he was no longer pushing for a change to a new plan commission.
During the 15-minute public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, Roberts criticized Jacobs for the way zoning matters are now being handled.
“Why, after many, many years, are the meetings still at 5 o’clock?” Roberts asked. “For years, it was always in the evening where residents could come and voice their opinion and listen to what was going on out in the county. I heard two different reasons for this. One, Mr. Jacobs didn’t want to come back to town after he left work at 5 o’clock. Number two, Mr. Jacobs stated that five o’clock was better for his board members, that they had a life and he didn’t want to have it interfere with their evenings. If that is the truth and it interfered with their schedules, why did they accept offers to be on the planning commission?”
Jacobs said Thursday the decision about plan commission meeting times was not his.
“I don’t have a vote,” he said. “I didn’t move the time. It has nothing to do with me. I was approached by a couple of planning commission members. I would remind people we still have other government meetings, like the county council and others, who meet in the afternoon. Despite what seems to be the popular narrative, Darrin Jacobs doesn’t control this. It has nothing to do with Darrin Jacobs or staff hiding anything or disenfranchising the public.”
Roberts also expressed concern about Jacobs’ recent proposal to transition Henry County from an advisory to authoritative planning commission. Currently, the commission just has an advisory role. Jacobs had proposed creating a new 11-member plan commission that would actually make decisions instead of just recommendations.
“Mr. Jacobs now informs us he wants Henry County to become an Area Planning Commission,” Roberts said at Wednesday’s commissioners meeting. “Only 34 counties in our state are under that type of planning commission. Does that tell you something? I believe there are 92 counties.”
Thursday morning, Jacobs said he was no longer advocating for the change.
“I have researched this,” Jacobs said. “I’m not going to push for an area planning commission. I’m completely off of that. I understand there are concerns on the county side. My recommendation is to keep it just the way it is. I think the towns are interested in having more input in the planning process. All I was trying to do was having a conversation, but it became apparent pretty quickly it was not something the county was interested in doing.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Kim Cronk said he was opposed to creating a new commission.
“I’ve called about 15 counties that had area planning commissions and I’ve talked to many of the counties that do not,” Cronk said. “I will never support an area planning commission in that form. Now if each town wants to use our planning commission and the results go back to their town boards to make the final decision, I think that is good local government. But to have a countywide planning commission where we appoint people from the town of Blountsville to make a decision in Knightstown and people in Straughn to make decisions for people in Middletown, I have concerns about that. I didn’t get one positive response of doing it from the counties that I called. All they said was, ‘why would you even consider it?’”
Cronk also seemed frustrated with Jacobs and his poor attendance at county commissioner meetings and said he’s asked the zoning administrator to come more than once.
“I report to the planning commission,” Jacobs said. “I work for the planning commission. If commissioners have questions, they can contact me at any point.”
Finally, Roberts claimed new procedures put in place by Jacobs concerning notification of zoning changes is unfair.
“Last, but not least, Mr. Jacobs wants to change the rules and procedures,” Roberts said. “As I read it, it allows the planning commission to not notify the affected property owners by mail, for them to be responsible to find the little notices in any of the three local papers or the Henry County website. How fair is that? It seems to take the responsibility off of the county planning commission and not everyone has access to local papers and the internet.”
Jacobs tried to clarify that issue, emphasizing the changes were made at the recommendation of the county attorney and concerned ordinances only.
“When it comes to a variance or zoning issues, letters will still be mailed to the neighbors,” Jacobs said. “But with ordinances, there is no way you can mail a letter to every resident in Henry County. Putting it on the website is actually giving more notification than there was under previous zoning administrators.”
Some present at Wednesday’s meeting wanted to talk about wind issues, but were denied.
“Since we have already processed the wind ordinance and passed the resolution to send it on to the planning commission, we will entertain any questions or comments on any topic except for wind,” said Butch Baker, president of the commissioners.
“I think that is shameful,” one said as they left the meeting.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding