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New commissioners ready to repeal zoning

PRINCETON – Gibson County Commissioners Ken Montgomery and Warren Fleetwood took the first step Tuesday to kill the county’s zoning ordinance, enacted last fall after months of controversial study.

Commissioners voted 2-1, with Mary Key dissenting, to approve the first reading of an ordinance repealing the zoning ordinance that was adopted in September.

Attorneys Grant Swartzentruber and Joshua Claybourn addressed the board in their first meeting of the year Tuesday morning to detail the steps involved in doing away with zoning.

Swartzentruber, who worked with the late John Molitor on behalf of residents opposed to zoning in a lawsuit challenging the validity of the plan, made note that the litigation is stayed due to the results of the November election where Fleetwood and Montgomery won seats in a campaign opposed to zoning. Molitor passed away Oct. 30.

Swartzentruber, who described Molitor as a “phenomenal individual and remarkable attorney,” said the stay of the lawsuit gives the new commissioners time to implement their new policy objectives.

Claybourn said commissioners can begin the repeal of zoning by approving the first reading of the ordinance and sending it to the Gibson County Advisory Plan Commission. The APC would have 60 days to conduct a hearing and provide a favorable or unfavorable recommendation, then the ordinance goes back to commissioners for final approval.

Newly appointed County Attorney Jason Spindler said after Tuesday’s meeting that the APC, which hasn’t met since zoning was adopted, would be notified of the action.

Claybourn said commissioners can address concerns residents have regarding proposed wind farms by drafting an ordinance that requires a license to build and install wind farms in Gibson County, and to consider safety concerns. He said a draft of that ordinance could be ready for review by the time commissioners are prepared to take a final vote on the repeal of zoning.

Montgomery offered the motion to approve the first reading, supported by Fleetwood. Neither offered comment on the issue during Tuesday’s meeting, but Key, who also served on the APC, said before casting her dissenting vote: “Obviously, as you all know, I’m not in favor (of the repeal). I believe we followed all the necessary steps, according to all the codes. I just wanted to make that clear.”