Commission delays landscape, buffer vote

-A A +A
By Brent Schanding

Triple S Planning and Zoning will spend more time looking at possible amendments to the county's landscape and buffer requirements. The commission agreed Tuesday to hold another public hearing on the issue.

Developers and Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation members convinced commissioners Tuesday to postpone action on the regulations. The critics did not offer specifics for wanting to delay the 14-page text amendment, which has been ongoing since October.

"Some of it is still so wrong," said developer Jerry Karem, of Karem Properties.

Foes of developers and the foundation said lobbying efforts to postpone the measure amounted to bullying and bribing, after the commission delayed a vote this week, pending more public discussion.

"They've had the same amount of time as the rest of us have had," said Katie Sjothun, a member of the preservation group M.O.R.E., an acronym for Maintain Our Rural Environment. "I think it's ridiculous to start all over."

M.O.R.E. has also opposed relaxed landscape and buffer zone requirements for other reasons.

For more than two months, the commission has studied a proposal to change landscape and buffer requirements. It seemed ready to approve a plan that would reduce the number of plantings a builder or developer would have to install at the edges of property lines.

The proposed changes follow gripes by some builders and developers who claim current regulations are unrealistic, too expensive and discourage businesses that seek to relocate here. Under existing regulations, for example, a commercial site with 200 feet of road frontage would have to plant 15-16 trees at its property edges. Triple S Executive Director Ryan Libke said those landscaping requirements help the county retain its natural beauty, while improving energy efficiency and the environment.

The commission held a public hearing Nov. 20 about the proposed text amendment and allowed written comment until Dec. 4.

Libke said during that time the foundation expressed disapproval of the plan, but did not indicate any specific problems with it.

Triple S chairman Gil Tucker expressed dismay Tuesday about the vote's postponement.

"This has gone on for two months," he told those who opposed a vote on the matter. "You've had ample time to submit written suggestions or speak on the matter."

Tucker said additional meetings would amount to increased costs for the commission.

Marshall Long, vice president of the industrial foundation, offered to pay for those costs, a bid the commission's attorney said was out of line.

Still, a 4-2 majority on the commission found it reasonable to collect more input on the matter.

"We don't know if we're close to a deal everyone is happy with," commissioner Larry Stewart said.

Most commissioners agreed that additional "substantive" input could help them secure a policy that best serves the county's interest.

"But it can't be 'I don't like it.' And that's all I've heard so far," said commissioner Ed Rudolph.

Libke said an upcoming workshop could help the commission achieve a compromise.

"I hope that everyone that wants to speak about this issue comes out and comes to these meetings, he said. "I hope they don't stay at home in their recliners watching t.v."

The public workshop is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22, at the Stratton Community Center.