All posts by Tim J. Clark

Solar Co-Op

BROWN COUNTY – Solar Community Share

Purpose: As a part of Earth Rising we are working together to make Solar Energy available to as many Brown County homes and businesses as possible.

Method: Solar PV prices are coming down but for many it is still considered too expensive for budgets. Through the Solar Community Share Solar Program we are attempting to buy panels in bulk to make them as inexpensive as possible. In addition we want to build a model of working in teams for the installation. This brings the cost down tremendously.

What is Team Installation?

We believe that those people who care about the environment and want solar panels would be willing to offer whatever skills they have to place an array on their home as well as on the homes of the other team members. So what skills are needed. Obviously there are electrical connections so some electrical knowledge is helpful. Some climbing skills and just ability to measure and install rails that the panels fit on.

Do not let this discourage you if you do not have these skills, others may and you can be a helper. If a team does not feel comfortable with certain aspects of the job like electrical and climbing we will augment your team with people that have those talents. We are also considering developing skills in several people who could treat this as a job. Our contention is that it offers work to local talent and we would negotiate reasonable costs for that service.

Conclusion

This plan can work because this is Brown County. We Brown Countians help each other. There is no nobler goal than to help us tread lightly on our earth than to switch from fossil fuel to sun power for our energy. It will help us feel like we are making a difference and we are thinking about how we can be helping our kids, grandkids and their grandkids.

We hope to get this plan implemented this spring. We are in the organizing phase and will be asking people to tell us of their willingness and interest.

BROWN COUNTY

Solar Community Share Program

Participation Questionnaire

Preliminary Form

There are many ways to get involved in the Solarize Brown County Community Share Program. The following areas are ones to consider at this time:

I Want to have a solar array connected to my electrical service Yes No

Willing to participate on a team Yes No

If yes I have the following interests or skills (check the areas that apply to you as well as circling your level of skill):

___ Helper

____ Electrical skill Basic Moderate Advanced

____ Willing to do some climbing Basic Advanced

Financial Support

For those people that do not feel their home is or is not conducive to Solar power but feel that the need is important you can help by investing or donating into the program. We need some start up money to buy the necessary equipment to due the jobs that are being requested.

More information on this aspect of the program will be made upon request and I hope we get lots of requests.

Name

Address

Phone No.

Email address

Comments:

Return this form to William Todd email: wbtodd@gmail.com

RDC 2020

 

The Brown County Redevelopment Commission (RDC) is tasked with coordinating follow-on actions derived from the Brown County Economic Development Strategic Plan.

Current and Planned Events

May 28, 2020. BCD. County News. Redevelopment commission mapping out priorities

  • In a virtual meeting on May 7, the members — three of whom are new this year — learned about what the group had been working on last year. President Schwenk explained the concept of gathering data about abandoned, vacant homes in the county, which could possibly be rebuilt into affordable, habitable homes. All voting members supported continuing with this project. They also started thinking about others, and started working on a goals chart which is viewable online at https://bit.ly/BCRDCPLAN. The goals chart is on page 15.

Mar 21, 2020. RDC Discussion – 2020 Plan – 9:00 am, Community Foundation

Information

Assessment – Brown County Economic Development Strategic Plan

  • This plan meets the minimum requirement required by the State.
  • Strategies identify solutions without referencing the data that identifies the scope and extent of the respective problem.  Additional analysis is needed to identify the costs, priorities, and funding options.
  • The strategies were also derived with input from non-statistically valid surveys, and selected input from community members (see Methods below).
  • Not mentioned is the need to retain existing residents and to identify their priorities.  Over half the workers in Brown County have historically chosen to live in the county and commute outside the county for the better-paying jobs.
    • Brown County Democrat: What are best bets for future of  local economy? by Sara Clifford. Brown County’s greatest potential for economic growth is as a bedroom community, according to economists with the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University.

Governance and Plans

  • Handbook for Indiana Redevelopment Commission  (RDC) Members and Their Attorneys – June 2017  2017-handbook-for-indiana-redevelopment-commission-members-and-their-attorneys-3
  • IC 36-7-14 – Chapter 14. Redevelopment of Areas Needing Redevelopment
    Generally; Redevelopment Commissions  IC 36-7-14
  • Brown County Economic Development Strategic Plan  Brown County Econ Dev Strat Plan and Exec Summary 11.20.2019
    1. Several residents participated in interviews, public engagement sessions, and an online survey to offer public feedback, comments, and ideas for the creation of the following four overarching goals:
      1. Preserve and Promote Brown County’s Natural Environment;
      2. Establish Brown County as a home for young families and talented individuals;
      3. Foster Brown County’s identity as a destination for tourists interested in the arts, outdoors, and historic small-town charm; and
      4. Support Brown County’s interests within the Uplands Region through partnerships .

METHODS.  In addition to employment and census data, public input was considered through a web-based public survey, a town hall event, and individual interviews with key stakeholders. The electronic survey was available to the public and received a total of 185 responses. Responses from approximately 20 individuals were gathered during an open town hall event on January 23rd, 2019. Individual interviews were held with 11 stakeholders representing various positions and organizations within the county.

 

 

Zoning – West Robertson Road – For the Record

SummaryGiven the formal complaint by the Mitchells to the decision made by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on Jan 29, 2020, the county judge will now review the process that supported the decision by the BZA which may require that they re-hear the request for a special exception and/or determine that a zoning change may be needed.

Guidance: INDIANA CITIZEN PLANNER’S GUIDE Part 2: Board of Zoning Appeals Basics
by KK Gerhart-Fritz, AICP.  Developmental Standards Variance Criteria per IC 36-7-4-918.5

  • (1) the approval will not be injurious to the public health, safety, morals,
    and general welfare of the community
  • (2) the use and value of the area adjacent to the property included in the
    a variance will not be affected in a substantially adverse manner
  • (3) the strict application of the terms of the zoning ordinance will result
    in practical difficulties in the use of the property

May 13, 2020Facebook – Brown County Matters, by Sherrie Mitchell. Judge Wertz denied the motion by the BZA attorney to dismiss.

Mar 11, 2020.  Facebook – Brown County Matters.  Notification of formal complaint to the APC and BZA.

Mar 7, 2020.  Facebook – Brown County Matters by Sherrie Mitchell, Volume of truck traffic.

Mar 4, 2020, Facebook – Brown County Matters  – Zoning Overlays – County GIS Map by Sherrie Mitchell. Response by Tom Reoch, GIS coordinator

  • Tim J. Clark  CULTURE: The “culture” in the county that has been expressed at county meetings has been that people can generally do what they want with their property. If there is a complaint, then property owners can apply for a special exception or a zoning change. This issue started with a complaint by a neighbor. Upon further analysis, it was determined that the law governing the approval of the exception may not have been followed. It was also discovered that Board member (s) were appointed to the BZA in violation of Indiana law. Given the formal complaint, the county judge will now review the process that supported the decision by the BZA which may require that they re-hear the request for a special exception and/or determine that a zoning change may be needed.
  • Tim J. Clark . The PROCESS: The County Comprehensive Plan (meets minimum standards required by law), provides the guidance for zoning. The commissioners are “accountable” for the process. The Planning Director and GIS Coordinator work for the commissioners. The “voters” are “responsible”  for the performance of the commissioners.

Mar 3, 2012. Democrat. Zoning decision under review; member resigns, By Sherrie and Benjamin Mitchell filed a petition for judicial review on Feb. 21, asking that the court clear the special exception which the BZA granted for the Christina Buccos property on Gartner Drive in January.

Mar 2, 2020. BZA Meeting. Statement of Fact 20200302185331927

Feb 29, 2020. Democrat.  COUNTY NEWS: Speed limit reduced; update on courthouse remodel  By Sara Clifford

  • An ordinance reducing the speed limit on West Robertson Road to 30 MPH was approved unanimously by the Brown County Commissioners on Feb. 19.
  • The speed limit will be reduced on West Robertson from State Road 135 North to Richardson Drive east and westbound. The speed limit maximum will be 30 MPH unless weather or other conditions require a lower maximum speed limit.

Feb 24, 2020. Democrat.  Business gets OK to keep operating in neighborhood By

  • A Brown County family has been granted the proper zoning permission to keep running the business it’s been running on its property for at least two generations.

Christina Buccos went before the Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals on Jan. 29 seeking a special exception for “general industrial” use. Her family formed Shady Oaks Logging LLC six years ago, but a log yard has been housed on Buccos’ 130-plus acres since before the county had a zoning code, according to Planning Director Chris Ritzmann’s research. Buccos was asking for the special exception for 3 acres of her land, all of which is zoned FR (forest reserve).

Buccos’ land is on a private road, Gartner Drive, which abuts West Robertson Road.

Feb 21, 2020. Facebook – Brown County Matters, Legal Complaint.  Sherrie Mitchell.

  • My husband and I, represented by Michael Carmin (attorney in Bloomington), filed a request for a judicial review in the Brown County Circuit Court, Judge Mary Wertz. If you read the article in the Brown County Democrat a few weeks back, you are aware that the Brown County BZA approved a logging yard in a residential neighborhood. This is absurd. This sets a precedent for our county and would allow industrial parks in every residential neighborhood. This has to be stopped.

Brown County Regional Sewer District – For the Record

In May of 2013, county health department employee and then-commissioner John Kennard alleged that there was “an environmental nightmare” in Bean Blossom.  His claim served as the premise to establish a county-wide regional sewer district, a proposed sewer project for Bean Blossom, and an aggressive septic maintenance program that would need to be supported with an ordinance.

  • Brown County Democrat May 1, 2013.  “Brown County Commissioner John Kennard called Bean Blossom an “environmental nightmare” due to many failed septic systems in the town located north of Nashville. The comment came during discussion of forming a countywide sewer district. Kennard said the purpose of the district would be to increase the chances of Bean Blossom acquiring a grant to pay for installation of a sewer system for the town. Commissioners voted 3-0 to pursue formation of the district, which could include a septic maintenance program.”

A new ordinance was passed by the commissioners in 2013, successfully challenged in court, and rescinded in 2015.  Mr. Kennard, in addition to the proposed new 2020 ordinance, led efforts to develop a new ordinance in 2017 and 2018. These versions were considered by the Health Board, opposed by citizens, and disapproved by the commissioners. Clint Studabaker, vice president of the Brown County Regional Sewer District Board, has also been a significant contributor to the proposed 2020 ordinance.

Since May 1, 2013, there has been no documented evidence that supports the claim of an “environmental nightmare” in Bean Blossom. The January 28, 2020 article in the Democrat – “Stream Sampling: Where’s the contamination coming from?” does not support the allegation of contamination caused by failed septic systems. To quote: “Is E. coli found in local waterways coming from humans or from animals? Short answer: We don’t know yet.”

2017/2018. Further, the past two Brown County RSD Board presidents – Evan Werling and Judy Swift- Powdrill acknowledged that there was no documented evidence of failed septic systems that would validate a need for a new sewer plant in Bean Blossom.

BCRSD Board. At their Feb 11, 2020 board meeting, Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) board members acknowledged that they did not know of any evidence of failed septic systems in their district.  Current board President Mike Leggins stated that Brownies Restaurant in Bean Blossom closed as a result of a failed system. Septic systems designed for commercial use are approved and inspected by the State.

Commissioners.  At their meeting on Feb 19, 2020, Brown County Commissioners (Diana Biddle and Jerry Pittman) also acknowledged that there is no documented evidence of failed septic systems in the county.

Cordry and Sweetwater Conservance.  The conservancy has a septic system management plan and no issues with water quality.

More Information:

 

Wastewater (Septic Systems and Sewers) Strategic Planning

I can’t think of a more important issue regarding our cost of living and quality of life than the decisions that are and will be made regarding wastewater treatment strategies.

The best decisions are the result of transparency, effective processes (habits) and citizen awareness of the overall process.  Ideal outcomes result from policies, ordinances, and plans where everyone benefits, or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term.

In December 2019, the Brown County Regional Sewer District received a $118, 000 grant to fund the development of a  Wastewater Infrastructure Strategic Plan.

In January 2020, the BCRSD issued a Request for Proposals (RFPs) that will be used to select the contractor for this plan.

Also in January 2020,  a wastewater treatment regionalization study was completed that identifies options for the size and location of treatment plants but not options regarding technologies.

  • FINAL REPORT  (received and posted Feb 7, 2020)- Preliminary Engineering Report – Regional Assistance Program.  
    • Summary: “Based on the analysis completed in this report, it appears that is most cost-effective to construct two regional plants to serve the areas under consideration. Table 6-11, following provide the cost and effective analysis of the various alternative combinations considered.

Determining the optimum wastewater treatment options (septic systems and sewers) for the county cannot be determined until after the strategic plan is completed.

Consequently, the proposed Bean Blossom Sewer project should be “paused” (no more spending) until the wastewater strategic plan is completed.  As of February 2020, $200,000 of the $270,000 provided by the county council, has been spent.  Land for the plant has not been acquired nor have the 190 required easement agreements been obtained.

The BCRSD has asked to acquire land deeded to Parks and Recreation.  If land for a plant could not be obtained from property owners over the past “20 years”, how difficult will it be to acquire the needed easements?  Of the 240 potential customers, how many have submitted a letter of support for this project?

Do we need a Brown County RSD?

The regionalization study calls in to question the need for a “county-wide” regional sewer district (RSD).  Multiple RSDs that include Helmsburg and Gnaw Bone that have a proven track record of successful operation, maybe the best solution for the county.

  • The Gnaw Bone RSD Board requested that board members be elected by those being served by the RSD. Their request was approved by IDEM.
  • The Helmsburg RSD Board has also requested elections and will likely be approved.
    • The Helmsburg community has also formed a Community Development Corporation (CDC), established an economic development area and developed its own economic development plan. More information:

      Helmsburg Revitalization – Community-Led

  • A “decentralized” approach for county leadership was identified in the draft 1993 County Comprehensive Plan. This plan was not approved by the commissioners at the time. (See Hamlet and Rural Village Development).

Brown County Regional Sewer District – For the Record

 

Brown County Community Development Course – Jan 30-Feb 1, 2020


Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people with the skills they need to effect change within their communities … that put people and places first

I had the opportunity to attend the 2.5 day Community Development course that was created by Ball State and sponsored by the Brown County Community Foundation. The information presented has the “potential” of resulting in a more effective and inclusive community where citizen input and participation is encouraged, respected, and valued.  Course description and materials below. At the conclusion of the course, several project ideas were identified and future meetings will be used to work through the process. I do plan on posting updates.

Instructors/Facilitators:

Course Materials – Dropbox

Additional Resources and Supporting Efforts

  • Brown County Leader Network – Support Materials
    • Model for  Improvement –  What are we trying to accomplish?  How will we know that a change is an improvement? What change can we make that will result in an improvement?
      • Plan change or test aimed at improvement
      • Do – Carry out the change – preferebly on small scale (prototype)
      • Study – Examine the results. What did we learn? What went wrong?
      • Act – Adopt the change, abandon it, run through the cycle again
  • Brown County Schools – Engineering Design Process
    • 1.0 Ask. What are the problems? What are the conmstraints?
    • 2.0 Imagine. Brainstorm Ideas; Choose the best one.
    • 3.0 Plan. Draw a diagram; Gather needed materials
    • 4.0 Create. Follow- the plan; test it out
    • 5.0 Prove. Discuss what can work better, Repeat steps to make it better
  • National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals