PRINCETON — Following Tuesday's confirmation of Gibson County Councilman Mike Stilwell's appointment to a new nine-member Gibson County Advisory Planning Commission, councilman Jeremy Overton said he believes some form of county land use plan has to happen to attract investment here.

Last week, Gibson County Commissioners approved an ordinance that created the commission to consider a comprehensive plan for the county.

The proposed zoning ordinance initially designates the Interstate 69 Economic Development Area with zoning districts including: agriculture, single and multiple family residential, manufactured residential, professional office, general commercial, light and heavy manufacturing, coal mines, parks/recreation, churches/cemeteries, education, utilities and managed lands.

According to the draft of the ordinance, the land use planning starts with the I-69 EDA with the rest of the unincorporated areas of the county to remain at existing use at the time of the plan's adoption — but later further designated during another phase of planning in a new zoning map to be adopted by the advisory plan commission.

Members of the planning commission include Gibson County Commissioner Steve Bottoms, Stilwell, Gibson County Surveyor Scott Martin, a Gibson County Cooperative Extension Service appointment and residents John Feutz, April Graper, Larry Harris, Mike McConnell and Steve Obert.

The creation of the advisory planning commission, Bottoms explained Tuesday, is necessary before public hearings can be conducted to discuss the proposed land use ordinance.

The first draft of the ordinance comes after a series of private meetings with landowners in or near the I-69 EDA. Residents in that area packed the gallery of a commissioners meeting earlier this fall, most speaking in opposition to proposed zoning. Gibson County Board of Commissioners President Alan Douglas promised that no action or public discussion of the proposed ordinance would be scheduled until after harvest.

Bottoms said Tuesday that community economic development officials have been working on the project for months. "Experts have said this is probably one of the most important moves we make," he told the council.

Overton agreed, noting that "some form of land use has to happen for them to want to invest here...I'm glad you're moving forward with it. I know it's controversial."

Overton said zoning in Haubstadt has been in place for about a decade, and has benefited the community.

Bottoms said after the meeting that more than 80 of Indiana's 92 counties have zoning ordinances in place, including Warrick, Posey, Vanderburgh and Knox counties.

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