GOSHEN — A revamped zoning ordinance that sparked a wildfire of criticism last year is back up for discussion, and the Elkhart County Farm Bureau wants to be part of that conversation.
Like many of the 200 county residents who protested an overhaul of the ordinance last year, the Farm Bureau felt that it included too many restrictions and infringed on property rights instead of guiding the county’s development. Dwight Moudy, Farm Bureau board spokesman, told the Elkhart County Plan Commission on Thursday morning that the ordinance “went too far,” but the group is willing to lend a helping hand as the county moves forward to revise the 40-year-old document.
“We at the Elkhart County Farm Bureau stand ready to work with you and any other groups in the county to make this a workable, fair ordinance for everyone,” Moudy told the plan commission. “We’re a very diverse county, and we feel that the ordinance should reflect all of that.”
Plan commission members agreed that while the proposed zoning ordinance was more user friendly and easier to comprehend, it was missing one key element — public input.
“I can only speak for myself, but if this comes back, I’m going to expect a lot of help from a lot of different organizations,” plan commission member Dennis Sharkey said, specifically naming the Farm Bureau, schools and city officials.
Jeff Burbrink, plan commission president, echoed Sharkey.
“We put a lot of years of effort into that draft, and I felt even back in December when we decided that we were going to launch it that we really didn’t have any good input from the public,” Burbrink said. “The process is really as important as the development of the rule itself, and if you don’t have public input to the degree you should, it doesn’t come out well, and we saw that a year ago.”
In the next month, the plan commission will form a subcommittee that will craft a process to revise the zoning ordinance and gather public comments.
“Just don’t get too far ahead without bringing in all the players,” Sharkey said.
Moudy said he has spoken to several people throughout the county who would be willing to volunteer their time to help the plan commission.
“We have such a diverse county that it’s imperative to have everybody working together to get this done the right way,” he explained. “Nobody says we don’t need zoning reformed. We do. We need to change some things, but let’s do it in a way that everybody pries into it and everybody takes ownership.”