Commissioners consider tighter rules on neighborhood businesses

Bartholomew County Commissioners are considering changes to the county zoning ordinances that would regulate some businesses that operate next to homes.

Jeff Bergman, director of the city-county planning department said that the proposal was being made to more closely align the city and county zoning rules. The changes would affect businesses in the county that are zoned as CN or Commercial Neighborhood, which are smaller businesses in largely residential areas. Bergman said that the zoning category is used sparsely in the county, but mentioned examples in Newbern, Waymansville and Grammar.

The city of Columbus has been going through a process to more closely regulate those sorts of businesses. He said the suggestions for the county represent a pared down list from the city changes. Under the proposal, which was presented at Monday’s commissioners meeting, changes would include making uses inconsistent with a neighborhood setting into conditional uses or even prohibited entirely in the CN zoning districts. That would include uses such as fitness centers, night clubs, bars, parking lots, athletic complexes, and liquor stores .

It would also prohibit businesses with drive up windows, reduce the number of signs allowed, and require things such as bicycle racks and connections to sidewalks if they are already in the area.

Tony London, who is running unopposed for a seat on the county commissioners in November, cautioned that in these difficult times for businesses, such changes might make it harder for a business to succeed. Chris West, the German Township trustee, questioned whether the change would prohibit his office from establishing a drive-through service for trustee’s clients.

Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said that the issue is of balancing the needs of business owners, and the residential neighbors. Commissioner Carl Lienhoop used the ZwanzigZ restaurant in downtown Columbus as a perfect example of the tensions that arise between a neighborhood business and residential neighbors and the concessions that must be made.

The county plan commission recommended approval in July with a 7-1 vote. Commissioners Monday decided to give their first approval to the ordinance changes. It will come back for a final decision next Monday.

You can read more about the proposal here (PDF Download)