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Rezoning could help residents

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HANCOCK COUNTY — In an effort to reverse unintended consequences, the Hancock County Area Plan Commission will consider rezoning 23 single-family homes and lots in northwest Hancock County.

In 2007, properties fronting Mt. Comfort Road and CR 500N were given an industrial business park zoning under the rationale that changing the land from an agricultural to industrial designation would help attract investment.

“I think we had the goal at the time of doing a good thing by raising the property value,” said county planning director Mike Dale. “By changing it to industrial, we thought we were making it more attractive.”

However, the recession hit not long after the rezoning was approved. There has been little interest in development, and now residents in the area are finding that living on industrially zoned property is problematic.

“We bought our house out here a couple of years ago,” said Smiley Courtney, the homeowner who requested the change for the area. “We were going to make a mother-in-law apartment out of the garage for my ailing mother and then build a new garage.”

However, when he approached county building officials with the plan, he found that the work could not be done, and the setback requirements in the industrial business park zoning area would force him to put the new garage in the middle of his back yard.

Additionally, when the couple tried to refinance their home, they were told flatly that lenders would not loan money for single-family homes situated on land zoned for a business park.

Courtney understands the restrictions and limitations, but that doesn’t help his current situation, he said.

“Honestly, if we’d known it was zoned industrial, we wouldn’t have bought here,” he said.

Dale said he understands the homeowners’ concerns, given the difficulties with financing and requiring them to file for a variance for uses normally allowed in a residential zone but not permitted in an industrial business park.

The majority of the land currently zoned for business park use will remain the same, Dale said. The rezoning will affect primarily only those homes and lots along the two major thoroughfares.

The plan commission’s meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 25, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse annex, 111 American Legion Place in Greenfield.

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