City and county leaders hope two major initiatives by the Area Plan Commission will make the city of Evansville and Vanderburgh County more business-friendly by streamlining the rezoning process and possibly a complete rewrite of the zoning codes.
Under the current system, it takes approximately 90 days for a petition to rezone to go through the entire process before being approved by the city council or county commission. Subdivision reviews take approximately 60 days while variances or special use permits take roughly 45 days.
Under a new proposal from APC Executive Director Ron London, rezoning petitions and subdivision reviews could be approved in half the time. The time it would take to approve variances could be reduced by one-third, London said.
“It will certainly help any time [residents or business owners] want to get a permit for their piece of property,” London said. “This will greatly reduce the timeframes for that, which will save them time and money.”
Expediting the process would be accomplished through internal administrative changes at the APC in addition to shuffling around when the commission holds its monthly meeting. Right now, the APC meets on the second Thursday of the month. Under London’s proposal, the APC would meet on the first Thursday of the month.
To accommodate the APC’s possible new schedule, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is willing to change its monthly meeting schedule, London said.
The overall goal of the proposal is to save time and money, said Mayor Lloyd Winnecke.
“I think the average resident should care because I think they would want their government to work as efficiently as possible. Secondly, the more development that occurs between the city, county and region, the better our economy is,” Winnecke said.
The hastened timeline could also make the difference between construction crews managing to pour a foundation and having to wait out the winter, Winnecke said.
“[Developers] won’t have to worry about the weather quite as much,” Winnecke said. “If they can get under roof by October or November instead of still being in the zoning process, everyone is a winner in that.”
If approved by the APC, the streamlined rezoning process would take effect in 2018.
The second and possibly costly initiative being pushed by the APC is a possible re-write of the city and county’s antiquated zoning codes. London said. If the proposal moves forward, the APC will put out a request for information to determine the cost of the project.
It won’t be cheap, Winnecke said, but it is much needed.
“If you sit down and you say, ‘when were the zoning codes last updated? It’s 1962. That’s a long time ago,” Winnecke said. “We want to make it easy for people to either buy a house, expand a business or remodel a business. If we can update our codes which haven’t been updated in 50 plus years, why shouldn’t we?”
The city’s zoning codes have been a point of contention in recent years, culminating with the Board of Zoning Appeals’ denial of a variance requested by a local businessman who wanted to turn the former Bud’s Harley-Davidson building into a bar. The developer requested the variance because of a parking-space requirement contained in the zoning codes. The BZA denied the variance despite similar variances being approved in the past.
Some business owners, especially along the West Franklin St. corridor believe the antiquated zoning codes hinder growth.
“I think [new zoning codes] is a long time coming and is something that is greatly needed,” London said. “With the amount of variances that we have that come before the BZA, we can tell there’s quite a few changes that need to be made to the current code.”