The members of the Wells County Area Plan Commission took their first in-depth look at the proposed revision of the county’s comprehensive plan Thursday night, looking over the first section of the document about land use.

There were not too many significant changes. The only change in zoning districts, for instance, was the inclusion of a power plant overlay district. The proposal was based on the current plan and the results of a survey completed by more than 740 residents earlier this summer. For the most part, therefore, what changes are proposed came from the most heavily-supported questions in the survey.

About 20 people were present for the review in the lower level of the Wells Carnegie Government Annex Thursday night, and at one point or another almost every one of them — APC members and audience members — participated in the discussion.

The section on land use, which was the only part of the proposal reviewed during the course of the evening, starts the same way as all the other sections do — with a policy statement. The section on land use, it said, should “pay reasonable regards towards” the following:

• The current conditions and the character of current structures and uses.
• The most desirable use for each section of the community.
• The conservation of property values for each section of the community.
• Responsible development and growth for each section of the community.

The new plan has several illustrations. For instance, in the section on compatible uses, the primary types of zoning — agriculture, industrial, business, urban residential, and rural residential — are listed side-by-side. Agriculture is repeated next to rural residential. The purpose of the chart is to illustrate that ag is compatible next to industrial, which is compatible next to business, and so on. Planned Unit Development and conservation zones are considered to be compatible with all others, and span the listing of the other zones at the top and bottom.

The other sections under land use are public participation (a new emphasis for the comprehensive plan), zoning regulations, structural regulations, energy, public lands, and other. The sections also included in-depth examinations of requirements for agriculture, conservation, industrial, commercial, and urban and rural residential zones.

The structural regulations segment is new and came from the survey. A majority of the survey respondents said they wanted the county to be more involved in dealing with unsafe buildings and in making sure building specifications are followed.

Mike Lautzenheiser, the APC’s executive director, noted that Bluffton has a Building Department, so the proposal for a countywide program is not without precedent. Josh Hunt, who represents Bluffton on the APC, encouraged the county to follow a similar path.

Lautzenheiser said the APC members’ comments will be considered as a final draft is put together. APC members were also asked to let his office know if they wanted to make any recommendatons after giving them some additional thought.

APC members will meet again Oct. 4 to go over additional sections of the comprehensive plan. Transportation and infrastructure are slated for review. Yet to come are quality of life issues and disaster preparedness.
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