Planning And Zoning Tries To Help Mercer Grow Wisely

In the Know: Shawn Moore

Shawn Moore has served as as executive director of planning and zoning since 2005. “The purpose of planning and zoning is to help people achieve their development goals within the confines of laws written by various legislative bodies,” Moore said.

Jennifer Marsh

Herald Staff

jmarsh@harrodsburgherald.com

(Editor’s note: This is a weekly series interviewing community leaders to share their thoughts and goals for the community.)

Shawn Moore, executive director of the Mercer County Joint Planning and Zoning Commission, has been working for Mercer County for 14 years. Originally from Western Kentucky, Moore moved to Danville in 1971 where he worked in zoning enforcement before taking over as executive director in Mercer County in June 2005.

Often confused with the office of the building inspector, Planning and Zoning does not inspect for building code violations, approve building plans or monitor construction sites.

“The purpose of planning and zoning is to help people achieve their development goals within the confines of laws written by various legislative bodies,” said Moore. “Zoning laws are created outside this office and this office is established only to interpret and enforce the laws as they are currently written.

Moore said he is only one part of the governmental body that makes Mercer County great and his personal goal as executive director is to try to help residents and commercial companies create their dreams but sometimes that isn’t always possible.

“I have tried to simplify things for people and create a good working network of communication with engineers to make sure there are no surprises for the landowners,” said Moore. “Working together to ensure a smooth process prevents delays and makes everyone happy most of the time.”

Moore said that he would like to see infrastructure added to the land along the bypass.

“Development always follows infrastructure,” said Moore. “Infrastructure is expensive but we can do this with coordinated efforts, grant money and careful consideration to make it happen properly.”

Moore said he worries about doing too much too fast but said he is pleased with the progress the county has made.

“We are doing really good now,” said Moore. “A lot of things affecting the economy were out of our control and Mercer County struggled, but we are doing good since the economy bounced back.”

What is planning and Zoning?

Moore recently lead the January meeting for the Unity and Advancement Committee, where public officials and organization leaders provide information to educate and create a spirit of cooperation within the community.

During the meeting Moore explained the commission is an independent governmental entity created by the city and county government for the purpose of promoting and protecting the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the citizens. It has the power to regulate land use issues within its jurisdiction. It is also responsible for the orderly and controlled growth of the cities and county.

The joint commission consists of six members with three each appointed by the city and county. Members can be re-appointed after serving a four-year term. At least four of the six members must be citizen members, meaning they do not hold elected office.

The role of the joint city and county planning and zoning commission is: develop a comprehensive plan; determine land use management; interpret and enforce provisions of city and county zoning ordinances; conduct public hearings on map amendments, text amendments and comprehensive plan updates; approve residential subdivision development and commercial development; provide guidance and solutions to gain approvals on land sub-division and  work with the public, banks and realtors with floodplain inquiries and verifications.

The Board of Adjustments and Appeals can consist of either three, five or seven members, all of whom shall be citizen members and no more than two may also serve on the planning commission.

Currently the Board of Adjustments and Appeals consists of five members, two appointees from the city and three appointees from the county. Each member serves a four-year term and is eligible to be reappointed.

The principal purpose of the Board of Adjustments is to issue conditional use permits, rule on variances and hear appeals.

Conditional use permits are a legal authorization to undertake a conditional use authorization by the board of adjustments. Some examples of conditional uses approved in the city and county zoning ordinances include churches, public libraries, funeral homes, assisted living centers, rural occupations, motels and mini storage warehouses.

Variances are a departure from dimensional terms of the zoning regulation pertaining to the height, width, length or location of structures, and the size of yards and open spaces where such departure meets the requirements of state law.

Before any variance is granted, the board must find that granting of the variance will not adversely affect the public health, safety or welfare, will not alter the essential character of the general vicinity, will not cause a hazard or a nuisance to the public, and will not allow an unreasonable circumvention of the requirements of the zoning regulations.

Some examples of variances include setback distances, lot width and sign size and height.

The board of adjustment will also hear and decide cases where it is alleged by an applicant that there is error in any order, requirement, decision, grant or refusal made by an administrative official in the enforcement of the zoning regulation. Such appeal shall be taken within 30 days.

During an appeals public hearing held by the board, any interested person may appear and will be given an opportunity to be heard.

Questions and concerns over zoning can be directed to Shawn Moore, executive director at 734-6066 or smoore@mercerky.com.

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