Abolishing the Area Plan Commission: Why a Major Change is Both Doable and Necessary By: Brad Linzy


Brad Linzy

Abolishing the Area Plan Commission: Why a Major Change is Both Doable and Necessary
By: Brad Linzy

As the debate has raged locally over the Area Plan Commission (APC) and its apparent use of fines as a club for unequal enforcement, one question has loomed: do we actually need an APC or any of the regulations it enforces in the first place?

Let’s look at what the APC is and what it does. The APC consists of 13 appointed board members and professional and support staff. The politically appointed board meets once a month and makes decisions on zoning for the city and county. The APC is responsible for long range planning, including updating the City/County Comprehensive Plan and its implementation. They rule on petitions for variance in the zoning restrictions, for which anyone can apply. The APC is also tasked with issuing building permits, inspection, and enforcement of zoning ordinance. [1]

At first glance, this indeed seems like a well-intended, indispensable agency – one that eliminates confusion, nuisance, and danger in our community, one without which the invisible hand of self-interest would run amok, bringing ruin and blight to our well-partitioned patchwork of farms, commercial buildings, and residences.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The “plan” this agency is supposed to administer is seemingly non-existent, blight is already an issue with an estimated 10,000 blighted buildings and homes in Evansville, and the enforcement arm of the agency is using its standing, many would say, to attack political enemies. Ask Amy Word, Kunkel Group, or the owner of the Riverhouse whether they believe the APC is politicized or “more equal” to some than others.

Indeed, it would seem to the casual observer that all the APC really does is set up rules, fiddle with those rules anytime someone with enough time, money, and clout comes along wanting a variance, and levies fines against anyone who steps out of line or did not first beg for permission to do what they’d like to do on their own property.

Perhaps, the most blatant cynicism of all comes in the form of annual fees levied from businesses great and small for the use of signage. If the signage rules are really set up with safety and esthetics in mind, why does this agency not simply charge one fee, approve a given sign, and let that be it? What is the justification for the perennial indulgences scheme of “pay your annual tribute…or else” even though its the same sized sign in the same location? I submit to you, dear reader, the only justification for this is in securing the jobs of the people who work at the APC – who, though doubtlessly well-intentioned, are nonetheless extraneous to the growth and well-being of Evansville – and ensuring the city continues to perpetuate its status as the Great and Powerful Oz to whom everyone must pay their pound of flesh in tribute. It’s all about control – the kind of control that allows the well-connected among us a means of attacking political rivals and punishing enemies. It offers a mechanism by which some “preferred” businesses can place undue and unfair burdens on competing businesses, e.g. the casino exception to the smoking ban. All you need is a big enough pocket book and enough insider track to navigate the regulatory morass.

I realize this viewpoint of total abolition of the APC is not the majority view. In a recent CCO poll, the idea of APC abolition only garnered about 17% support. I know many readers at this point will be dismissing this idea as an unworkable pipe dream. In response to this, I’d like to draw your attention to the city of Houston, Texas.

Houston is a bustling, growing metropolis, one of the largest and richest in the country, yet it boasts one important difference between it and most other cities – the near total absence of zoning laws and a zoning authority.

The following is from an article in the second-quarter edition of Investment Research Quarterly, a publication of CB Richard Ellis Investors LLC.:

“What is unique about Houston is that the separation of land uses is impelled by economic forces rather than mandatory zoning. While it is theoretically possible for a petrochemical refinery to locate next to a housing development, it is unlikely that profit-maximizing real-estate developers will allow this to happen. Developers employ widespread private covenants and deed restrictions, which serve a comparable role as zoning. These privately prescribed land use controls are effective because they have a legal precedence and local government has chosen to assist in enforcing them.”

Many economists and think tanks have studied the issues of restrictive planning and found that, in general, places with the strictest land use lag far behind in attracting new people and new capital. Companies looking to locate in areas with highly restrictive planning are finding there are not enough medium or low-skilled laborers to suit their workforce needs simply because these laborers cannot afford to live in these highly controlled and gentrified areas. Hurdles to success, such as attaining homeownership, are larger where land use is most restrictive. In Portland, Oregon, for example, restrictive land use and a draconian attitude toward new home building and city expansion has caused housing prices to balloon prohibitively to all but the upper crust and the investment class. Furthermore, these studies have found that inequality in wages countrywide has risen since 1980 as migration to wealthier parts of the country are impeded. [3]

To be clear, I am not against all restrictions on land use. I believe laws restricting certain forms of pollution like light, noise, air, and water are desirable, even necessary in some cases. I also agree that any situation, such as a misplaced sign, which poses a visibility danger should have some mechanism through which the situation can be addressed. Are there many ordinances that should be completely repealed? Absolutely. But what I am suggesting is a complete rethink on the manner in which we administer code changes and enforcement.

I propose a complete and immediate abolition of the APC, a full legislative review of all zoning restrictions with a one year period, the creation of an arbitration panel for solving disputes and helping neighborhood organizations and private property owners arrive at mutually beneficial agreements, an encouragement for developers and neighborhoods to begin the process of shifting over to a system of covenants for land use where zoning restrictions would henceforth be built into land titles and major issues exceeding the ability of the arbitration panel to solve would be litigated in our existing civil court system where decisions would be made based on the legal ordinances left in place after the legislative review.

The scheme of perennial indulgences, politically motivated attacks, unequal enforcement, unfair bias against small businesses, archaic regulations, and the practice of asking for approval for any and every property improvement, however small, would be things of the past. Our legislative body, the County Council, would be directly responsible for all future changes to the code and therefore directly accountable to voters for any unpopular changes. This is certainly preferable to what we have now – a politically appointed, politically motivated board of bureaucrats who owe their existence to the fines and indulgences they can manage to extricate from the residents and business owners of the community.

1. http://www.evansvilleapc.com/
2. http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/hotproperty/archives/2007/10/how_houston_gets_along_without_zoning.html

3. http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21582315-are-oregons-strict-planning-rules-stifling-growth-biking-and-hiking-no-parking


    • You think Houston is a model city? Houston builds factories right next to subdivisions. That’s what happens without a planing commission or zoning ordinances. I’m not sure I want our city anything like Houston. Do you want a factory in your back yard, Brad?

      Just curious, have you ever been to Houston? It is not a very nice city.

      • Sort of like the 3rd Ward of Evansville west of 41. The difference is that the Houston factories are still writing out paychecks and Evansville’s are just rotting down in a distressed neighborhood. I would gladly trade that part of Evansville, the adjacent part of the 6th Ward, and the whole 4th Ward for the operating factories in Houston including the subdivisions next to them. When is the last time a new factory was built in Evansville? By the way, Berry Plastics tore down neighborhoods for its latest expansion. It is by the way in a neighborhood.

        SRG Automotive by the way has a plastics plant and a plating line right behind the Eastland Mall. You can smell it from the parking lot. Houston has nothing on Evansville when it comes to making burgoo on land use. How did such things get approved? Cronyism I would guess.

        • Yoda,isms,you’ll have that,BTW could be todays orbital science zeros in on those,as well.
          And,with scientific nano-molecular accuracy. Gotta calibrate the lasers to actually zero in those larger pin point targets, mostly for research,so,hold the applause,——–>just throw money. <–jest.

  1. Area Plan came about in order to distribute CDBG’s, that competition for has now pretty much dried up. It is the downtown cheerleading agency, without a viable plan and no real money if they had a plan. It does seem a bit irrelevant these days.

    • elkaybee

      I politely disagree. If you go to the Indiana HUD site it shows a CDBG grant being given to Indiana as recently as August of this year for nearly $21 million dollars. Obviously a lot of places in Indiana will seek those funding sources, but I know for a fact that Evansville still gets CDBG funds.

      • I’m talking about years ago when Vanderburgh Co. got more than $21 million alone. As I said, the original reason for Area Plan was to fairly distribute grant money to the dozens of applicants, just in this city. I was there when it happened. Quentin Davis was the first director of DMD then.

      • You said elsewhere that Evansville could not receive these funds without a plan commission. I’d like for you to show the statutes which say only localities with plan commissions can receive or distribute these or other Federal or State funds.

        I’m having trouble finding anything of the kind.

        • The program is authorized under Title 1 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, Public Law 93-383, as amended; 42 U.S.C.-5301 et seq.

          To receive its annual CDBG entitlement grant, a grantee must develop and submit to HUD its Consolidated Plan, (which is a jurisdiction’s comprehensive planning document and application for funding under the following Community Planning and Development formula grant programs: CDBG, HOME Investment Partnerships, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), and Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG). In its Consolidated Plan, the jurisdiction must identify its goals for these programs as well as for housing programs. The goals will serve as the criteria against which HUD will evaluate a jurisdiction’s Plan and its performance under the Plan. Also, the Consolidated Plan must include several required certifications, including that not less than 70% of the CDBG funds received, over a one, two or three year period specified by the grantee, will be used for activities that benefit low- and moderate-income persons, and that the grantee will affirmatively further fair housing. HUD will approve a Consolidated Plan submission unless the Plan (or a portion of it) is inconsistent with the purposes of the National Affordable Housing Act or is substantially incomplete.

          A grantee (and for our discussion, I mean Evansville) may “carry out activities which aid in the prevention or elimination of slums or blight. Additionally, grantees may fund activities when the grantee certifies that the activities meet other community development needs having a particular urgency because existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community where other financial resources are not available to meet such needs”

          The CRITICAL point on this is where it CLEARLY states that to get the money, the municipality MUST develop and submit a “Consolidated Plan”, which is what we in Indiana call the “Comprehensive Plan”, which it defines as “a jurisdiction’s comprehensive planning document”. In Indiana (see previous comments) a Comprehensive Plan can ONLY be done by (in our size of city) the Area Plan Commission. Smaller cities have an “Advisory” Plan Commission, and Marion County has a “Metro” Planning Commission.

          elkaybee is correct, we used to get tens of millions of dollars as an “entitlement” city, but the HUD money has sadly shrank by large amounts over the last two decades. But Evansville has (IMHO) pretty much stopped even trying to go after the CDBG grants. I cannot recall the last time I heard of the APC working with DMD or the City Engineer to plan for a CDBG funded project. We have plenty of them in Evansville to fund thru CDBG, but nobody in the Mayors office is taking the time to do them.

          CDBG funds may be used for activities which include, but are not limited to:

          acquisition of real property
          relocation and demolition
          rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures
          construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets, neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes
          provision of assistance to profit-motivated businesses to carry out economic development and job creation/retention activities.

          On the above list, I can pretty much promise you that there are CDBG funds used every year in Evansville on water and sewer projects in one fashion or another. The problem is two-fold. One, there is never enough money to really fix the entire problem (I am talking about the EPA mandate), and two, the people who “benefit” from the updates and upgrades must meet VERY VERY strict financial guidelines. The bottom line on that is that if you are not at or below the federal poverty limit, Evansville cannot use CDBG funds to help you out. A lot of the properties on the Southeast side that could benefit from a CDBG project fail the income limit criteria. I hate that, since we all know that those households are not making much in take-home income. But the federal guidelines have no flexibility.

          So all the various pictures of “blighted” homes and building COULD be taken care of, but only under certain guidelines. I guess when you live in a condo on Main Street, the condition of low-income housing and neighborhoods are not a big concern for you.

          • Thanks for the info, and for making it all the way through a reply without dropping an insult. It’s a welcome improvement.

            I still don’t think the trade off is worth it. It seems to me that by going after such federal grants, unless the goals of the grant are already part of the plan, we are just compromising comprehensiveness to get free money. This would seem to add to the schizophrenic aimlessness of the current “Comprehensive Plan”, whatever that is this week.

            The strings attached to such money can be prohibitive of pursuing other goals.

            In a larger context, the libertarian viewpoint you seem to hate so much would say those south side residents, and all other residents of the County, would not pay federal income tax and would instead keep more of their own money to reinvest as their needs or wants dictate. Surely you can see how that isn’t so radical.

  2. Probably not popular with this crowd, but a more county/multi-county area planning commission would be more logical. The Evansville area does a very poor job in putting an attractive foot forward. Much of that is because it has not developed vectors which flow people through attractive areas with well coordinated developments. The mix of poor housing, businesses with their waste or raw materials openly facing the public, sign pollution that has Lady Bird rolling in her grave, limited use of effective corridor landscaping, and the public’s disrespect of littering laws makes the community unattractive to businesses, visitors, or the retention of youth.

    Letting uncoordinated land misuse simply spill across city-county or county-county lines leaves effectively establishing and implementing a solid development plan in the area ineffective. So I would agree wholeheartedly with abolishing what the current Area Planning commission does but would do so in exchange for one with a broader mission; even it if has to start as a toothless quasi-public advisory entity to true governmental decision making bodies.

    • That is actually a decent idea that I would support very easily.

      We already have that in some area. For example, the local MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) is a multi-county planning body that covers five counties (including Vanderburgh). They also control and seek millions from federal and state sources for our region of Southern Indiana.

      • Since you later admit that the APC is not legally mandated, then get on the band wagon to replace it with a broader based solution. In fact, if you are correct about the MPO, perhaps its charter could be enlarged to encompass this. The fewer governmental entities the better. The closer they are to the direct voting of the people’s oversight the better.

  3. The first thing to point out is that your “source” from Business Week is from 2007, which is before the 2008 bubble that burst in the American economy. On of the reasons for the bubble was due to the housing market, and if you look around, you will see that Houston was one of the hardest areas hit.

    Your article from The Economist is a nice little cherry-picks article that has minimal support for your discussion, but a single article does not make your case for you.

    In fact, your little puff-piece about Houston is nothing more than a bait-and-switch article. Houston regulates land use almost as intricate as cities with zoning by mandating suburban-style low densities, ordering businesses to hide their stores behind an asphalt ocean of parking, encouraging segregation of land uses, and forcing pedestrians to cross wide streets and to trudge through long, intersection-free blocks to go from one place to another.

    The Houston sign code ordinance is massive, with a total of 110 pages of regulations. I’m so glad you pointed out Houston. I sent a copy of their sign ordinance to Area Plan Commission just a few minutes ago.

    They also have strict requirements on trees. and have a regulation for that of 110 pages. It has some great stuff, so I sent a copy of their sign ordinance to Area Plan Commission, the Evansville City Arborist, and Keep Evansville Beautiful as well. Good job finding some great sets of regulations we can learn from and put into place locally.

    The fact of the matter is that while Houston does not have a “zoning” plan, they have regulated the use of land so tightly that property owners are handcuffed to what appears to be over 1,000 pages of regulations to follow.

    Houston is like a lot cities, it has sprawl and air pollution, which many argue was due to the unfettered and de-regulated business practices. However, is that it is the ONLY large American city without a zoning code, and most modern land use and planning organizations (groups that are comprised of many of the planning leadership of many cities in America) view the absence of zoning as quirky, if not downright dangerous. While Houston does have a decent economy and low priced housing, housing is even cheaper in San Antonio and Fort Worth, both cities with zoning and despite Houston’s boomtown reputation, Austin (another Texas city WITH strong zoning) has grown faster and has a lower unemployment rate: 6.6% versus 8.2%.

    So here is a fact, Captain Obvious: Houston’s economic success, undoubtedly, has more to do with the presence of the oil industry than it does with lack of zoning. Houston has a VERY active planning department and developers have compensated for the lack of government regulations by widely employing private covenants and deed restrictions which serve a comparable role to zoning. While libertarians would have you believe that zoning results in fewer freedoms, in fact many residential neighborhoods, particularly in suburban Houston are strictly controlled by homeowner associations (HOA’s).

    In contrast to outlying areas, central Houston does have its share of land use anomalies and intrusions. It is possible to see strip clubs, warehouses, bars, churches and houses all along the same street. What’s more, if someone wants to run a marble grinding business out of their house (a real case) there is little the next door neighbor can do. This is of course one of the reasons that no other American city has chosen to follow Houston’s lead.

    The truth is virtually every successful individual, organization, corporation and community plans for the future. Failing to plan means planning to fail. Try imagining a company that didn’t have a business plan. They would have a very hard time attracting investors and they would be at a huge disadvantage in a competitive marketplace. The same is true of communities.

    Community planning is about choices. Communities can grow by choice or by chance. People can accept the kind of community they are given or they can create the kind of community they want. In a democracy, citizens have a right to choose the future and to have some idea what it will look like. A comprehensive plan is like a blueprint. It allows a community to set out its goals and objectives. Even the Bible recognizes the importance of planning. The book of Proverbs says: “Without vision the people will perish.”

    Land use planning provides the essential bedrock on which zoning should be founded. Just as a business plan won’t work if every salesman or business unit could take it or leave it, at their discretion, land use planning won’t work without implementing regulations. In fact communities that engage in zoning in isolation from planning are setting themselves up for failure, as their regulations will appear arbitrary and capricious, without any consistent purpose.

    Oh, and before I forget, Area Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals are formed based on Indiana State Law! I do love busting your bubble on this, because there is no provision even remotely possible for Evansville and Vanderburgh County to “abolish” either APC or BZA. In fact, the Area Plan Commission is the local agency that administers multiple millions in federal grant money on a variety of levels. Without Area Plan Commission we would lose all sorts of federal funding. But the bottom line is that since Area Plan Commission is not only a part of Indiana law, it is mandatory State law for a city the size of Evansville. You can keep tilting at windmills, genius, but unless you get someone to erase over a hundred years of Indiana law that mandates the creation and duties of the Area Plan Commission, you are screwed.

    Your repeated rantings to “propose a complete and immediate abolition of the APC” is illegal. Take a look for yourself (www.in.gov/legislative/ic/2010/title36/ar7/ch4.html?) that this is black letter law that the Area Plan Commission operates under, and has for many years successfully contributed to the regulation and growth of Evansville and Vanderburgh County. Your lack of understanding on the FACT that an Area Plan Commission is State law and cannot be abolished because a single madman cannot understand it is pathetic.

    Maybe you need to do a little reeding and research so you have a clue about land use and planning and the legality (or lack thereof) of your proposal to “abolish” the Area Plan Commission. Since we all can now see that is illegal, the rest of your “proposal” is just more hogwash, gibberish and nonsense. I wish I could get you to understand how many people in this town think you and your “abolish the APC” is a clear indication that you have ZERO understanding of how local government works. Heck, the only reason I looked at your “letter” was for the comedic value of it. Even local leaders of industry and companies have laughed off your proposals as utterly unattainable due to Indiana law.

    If you need land use references where you might read a few things to educate you, I’ll be glad to pass them along. In the mean time, quit cherry-picking articles (and dated articles at that) to try and “prove” your point. The “abolish the APC” campaign is a loser idea. I gues that is why it came from you.

    • Lots of valid points. i just wish you could say them without the vitriol. I wasn’t attempting to hold Houston up as a model city, and I’m aware they have land use regulations. Likewise, I wasn’t trying to draw a parallel between Houston’s wealth and its zoning. I mentioned Houston because it is the most visible example of a large American city without zoning, to point out that it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility.

      Finally, if you read all that I said you will see I did not advocate a complete absence of regulation for land use.

    • PS: I believe you’re wrong about State law. The statute to which you linked clearly gives an outline of how plan commissions shall work IF established in qualifying communities, but it does NOT mandate the creation of a plan commission. In fact, it clearly says its optional and shall be created by ordinance in the locality. Read it again, or, rather, for the first time. If I’m wrong, show me the exact clause that mandates a plan commission.

      • Here is part of the statute:

        “Each municipality and each county desiring to participate in the establishment of a planning department MAY adopt an ordinance adopting the area planning law, fix a date for the establishment of the planning department, and provide for the appointment of its representatives to the commission.”

        It’s not a mandate.

        • IC 36-7-4-201 – Purpose
          Sec. 201

          (a) For purposes of IC 36-1-3-6, a unit wanting to exercise planning and zoning powers in Indiana must do so in the manner provided by this chapter.

          (b) The purpose of this chapter is to encourage units to improve the health, safety, convenience, and welfare of their citizens and to plan for the future development of their communities to the end:

          (1) that highway systems be carefully planned
          (2) that new communities grow only with adequate public way, utility, health, educational, and recreational facilities
          (3) that the needs of agriculture, forestry, industry, and business be recognized in future growth
          (4) that residential areas provide healthful surroundings for family life
          (5) that the growth of the community is commensurate with and promotive of the efficient and economical use of public funds

          (c) Furthermore, municipalities and counties may cooperatively establish single and unified planning and zoning entities to carry out the purpose of this chapter on a county wide basis.

          NOTE: IC 36-1-3 is the laws pertaining to “Home Rule”. The basic legal concept is that if a County wishes to have ANY laws at all, then they are required to follow the requirements of IC36-1-3 as prescribed above in IC 36-7-4-201

          The bottom line is that without the “establishment” of the APC and BZA, Evansville and Vanderburgh County would have no legal authority to do the many powers as required under the above section of the Code.

          We would not be eligible for the millions in dollars in State and Federal funding that we have received over the years from HUD.

          We would not be eligible for the millions in dollars in State and Federal funding that we have received over the years from NHTSA and DOT.

          Based on the size of Evansville and Vanderburgh County, the type of “planning commission” is called the “Area Plan Commission”. Other communities have an “advisory” system, and Marion County has a “Metro” system

          • “(a) For purposes of IC 36-1-3-6, a unit wanting to exercise planning and zoning powers in Indiana must do so in the manner provided by this chapter.”

            That blows apart your assertion it’s mandated. It’s clearly not mandated, therefore the County Council could repeal the ordinance that created them.

            As for the Home Rule statute, you are correct. This would seem to limit our ability to set up alternate forms of administrating and enforcing land use ordinances. So, while it’s entirely true we could abolish the APC locally – something you falsely claimed could not legally be done because of state law, state law does limit our other options if we want to regulate land use without a plan commission.

            So, barring further reading on my part in search of a legal loophole by which city and county can make land use-related ordinances without a plan commission, we were both wrong.

            This means I need to rethink my approach. Without a reform of IC 36-7-4, the APC must remain in place if we want to at least keep some skeletal regulations in place.

            The need for radical changes remains. The APC is not working from a plan, it’s not addressing blight in a meaningful way, it’s being used as a political battering ram. I’m open to suggestions.

  4. “I mentioned Houston because it is the most visible example of a large American city without zoning”

    Look carefully at my reply. Houston is recognized as the ONLY major American city to not have a “zoning code”.

    You are already flip-flopping on this, and I think that is partially due to getting quickly caught in using Houston to prove that “we” in Evansville do not “need” the Area Plan Commission, and that is not a supportable position.

    I am guessing you did a little Internet trolling last night and discovered the articles about Houston not having zoning and thought you had struck pay dirt. A little more reading from reputable organizations shows that few (and I mean very few) modern planners think the Houston model is acceptable. Most land use advocates do not look at the Houston experiment as a success.

    In case you need places to look at for proper and acceptable land use and zoning can be found at one or more of these websites:

    American Planning Association
    Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy
    Carfree Cities
    Center for Community & Economic Development
    Congress for the New Urbanism
    Environmental News Network
    Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
    Home Builders & Remodelers Association
    Institute for Local Government
    Land Use Planning and Information Network (LUPIN)
    Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
    National Association of County and City Health Officials
    National Association of Local Boards of Health
    National Center for Appropriate Technology
    National Environmental Health Association
    National Trust for Historic Preservation
    Natural Resources Defense Council
    North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
    Open Directory – Urban and Regional Planning
    Purdue Extension Land Use Team
    Regional Planning Association of America
    Sierra Club
    Smart Growth America
    The Planning Report
    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Growth Program
    U.S. Geological Survey
    Urban Land Institute

  5. You had me until you started going off on Portland’s UGB. And The only good thing about Houston is that they actually have some height in their sprawl. By my count, it has at least 3-4 different skylines. Still didn’t matter though, you can’t get anywhere along the beltway within a couple of hours. Not to mention Houston in the 70s looked like a nuclear reactor went off…


    For the record, all of that has now been filled in.

    But with regards to Evansville’s APC, yea it’s certainly doing more harm than good. ECVB sprawl fields, University Parkway development, that mess on Felstead, and the whole entire east side encountered little to no resistance from the APC yet try to put some residential windmills on Division Street and you would have thought the Burj Dubai was being proposed for the lot.

    The APC should be placed with the task of protecting downtown, franklin street, 41, Diamond/First/Stringtown/Jacobsville, and even points west of Green River. But if you look at their comprehensive plan, you see nothing but pro sprawl that is loaded with deforestation and more roads after more roads. The biggest mistake is all these people think this interstate is some grand idea. It’s not, it has been the death of inner city Evansville. At least the Wabash & Erie Canal now has a reuse purpose.

    Oregon is one of the nicest places in the country and I’m glad their state requires all mid and major sized cities to implement an urban growth boundary. It’d be nice if Indiana had the same policy but I just don’t think they are smart enough or motivated enough to do something like that.

  6. In retrospect and after another review of a variety of laws, I retract that the Area Plan Commission was a “mandate” under Indiana law. But that does not deter me from stating firmly that it should be clear and obvious to people of careful consideration that only a fool would argue that a town the size of Evansville should not have an Area Plan Commission or a Board of Zoning Appeals. You may not like what Area Plan Commission does at times, but only the supremely stupid cannot see the obvious benefits of the Area Plan Commission.

    Having an Area Plan Commission gives us (at a minimum) the following benefits:

    It lowers taxes:
    Helps local government provide services efficiently
    Ensures that developers pay their fair share of improvements such as streets, utilities and parks
    Directs development to areas with sufficient capacity to support it (i.e., new subdivisions in locations where there are available classrooms, industries where utilities are available)
    Coordinates development and future capital expenditures such as streets, sewage treatment plants, civic buildings, and schools
    Saves paying for remedies for poorly planned development, such as purchasing right-of-way or easements to widen streets or extend utilities

    It protects property values:
    Preserves and enhances community character
    Improves quality of life
    Keeps adjacent uses compatible

    It makes communities healthier:
    Provides for safe streets and sidewalks
    Prevents unwise development, such as residences in flood hazard areas or subdivisions without proper sewage disposal
    Protects environmental quality

    Our local Comprehensive Plan is reviewed and revised on a planned schedule so that Evansville and Vanderburgh County can:

    Evaluate existing conditions, including strengths and weaknesses, community character, demographics, natural features, etc.
    Establish goals and objectives for the future
    Identify alternatives for meeting the goals and objectives
    Select the most desirable alternative
    Devise and adopt tools to implement the plan (zoning, subdivision control, capital improvement programming, etc.)
    Evaluate the success of the plan
    Revise the plan

    Many local residents have participated in revisions of the local Comprehensive Plan, which has been reviewed, discussed, and revised in numerous fashions during my time in Evansville. The Area Plan Commission holds multiple public meetings, and residents are invited and encouraged to participate and provide oral and written input on the plan. APC will consider and make appropriate changes to the plan before final publication. Since we are in an era of technology that allows for things to be easily posted on the web, the latest copy of the Comprehensive Plan is located on the Area Plan Commission website.

    The most recent Comprehensive Plan has a Vision Statement of ““We envision Evansville and Vanderburgh County as a prominent regional center that offers prosperity, growth, and a quality place to live, learn, work, invest and visit.”

    I also noted that the CCO editor last week referred to Section 20, which deals with Plan Implementation, when they used the preface of that chapter where it states “Communities can be shaped by choice, or they can be shaped by chance. We can keep on accepting the kind of communities we get, or we can start creating the kind of communities we want”

    The public hearings on the Comprehensive Plan are held all over Vanderburgh County, yet the attendance by interested residents is really quite sad. I find it equally sad that there are people who come on here day after day after day ranting about how THEY would change things, but when it comes times for these hearings or to volunteer their time to work on the Comprehensive Plan, they always have an “excuse” for not assisting. Well, if you do not have time to help shape and mold the Comprehensive Plan, then as far as I am concerned you have invested NOTHING, so you DON”T get to bitch and moan and complain about how the Comprehensive Plan was designed. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. In the words of the immortal General George S. Patton, “We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. So lead me, follow me, or get out of my way”.

    • “You may not like what Area Plan Commission does at times, but only the supremely stupid cannot see the obvious benefits of the Area Plan Commission.”

      I never said the APC was devoid of merits. What I’m saying is when you weigh the benefits against the drawbacks, one will outweigh the other. Considering the recent revelations coupled with longstanding drawbacks as briefly outlined in my article, whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks is a matter of debate. Planning commissions have not always been the vogue. The world’s great old and new world cities – cities like London, Paris, New York, Moscow, Chicago, Edinburgh, etc. – were built largely without zoning restrictions.

      Evansville’s historic downtown is a good example of how factories, retail, schools, and government buildings were located in relatively close proximity, enabling a walkable, more close-knit, organic, and bustling community devoid of sprawl. It was modern planning that destroyed this old downtown because cars had become en vogue and parking lots were valued over old buildings. This wasn’t a failure of a free market, libertarianism, or anarchy, this was done by PLANNING.

    • “The public hearings on the Comprehensive Plan are held all over Vanderburgh County, yet the attendance by interested residents is really quite sad. I find it equally sad that there are people who come on here day after day after day ranting about how THEY would change things, but when it comes times for these hearings or to volunteer their time to work on the Comprehensive Plan, they always have an “excuse” for not assisting. Well, if you do not have time to help shape and mold the Comprehensive Plan, then as far as I am concerned you have invested NOTHING, so you DON”T get to bitch and moan and complain about how the Comprehensive Plan was designed. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. In the words of the immortal General George S. Patton, “We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. So lead me, follow me, or get out of my way”.”


      Unfortunately you are wrong, as a working taxpaying member of this community I have the right to bitch and moan about anything that either uses, appropriates, gathers, and assesses fines, fees and taxes my income, my home, my business or any other aspect of my life that any government agency has a hand in or is holding their hand out for tribute.

      You really fail at understanding WHY people are elected or appointed to do a job for the citizens, granted input is a nice thing but common sense is lacking in every aspect of government regardless of input, until the “we know what is best” attitude is removed most citizens will not participate because they know they can’t make a effective change.(just look at how the hotel issue was handled)

      You need only to watch any publicized zoning board, apc or city/county council meeting to see that citizen appearing before these boards or committees are mere mortals trying to talk to the gods who want to control every aspect of their lives and extract that pound of flesh.

      Less government is a good thing, is Brad on the right track, yea I think he is, are you right that we need some form in governance of codes, yea your right also but do we need the level of bureaucracy that we have now? not at all.

      You know in a lot of ways consolidation would have been a very good thing if it would have been a workable plan, what we have today isn’t working and radical change like what Brad is suggesting is what is needed but not just the APC, every aspect, office, commission, department, and council needs a top down rework to streamline and make applicable to 2013 and the problems facing our city/county with a focus on core services, not hotels, arenas, or even the downtown. Our infrastructure is crumbling away all around us and the government answer is to keep spending our money on shiny things that we don’t want or need.

      People Like Brad, Jordan, and Phyillip are at least trying to offer suggestions and ideas, many of them are not workable but the fact remains that they are trying to start a dialogue to foster change, part of that is pointing fingers at the obvious problems that are everywhere around us.

      Of course this is JMHO

  7. The comprehensive plan has no force of law (or ordinance). Guidance only. Often ignored.

    I think the DMD distributes CDBG funds.

    • The Comprehensive Plan or Master Plan is always ignored unless a crony, family member or fellow politician wants it to be adhered to!
      Area Plan Commissions usually contract out the research, planning and drafting of Comprehensive Plans.

      Comprehensive Plans are only tools for the Government’s use to control and empowerment of the private land use.

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