VERSAILLES –  Zoning code violators need to watch out because the Ripley County Commissioners are getting serious about enforcement. Monday, April 24, they questioned Ripley County Planning Commission director Tad Brinson about why action hadn’t been taken against a landowner on State Road 350 who was notified of violations about two years ago.

The director said some work to clean up the property, which was described by Commissioner Chuck Folz as a “dumping ground,” was done after the first warnings, so the county held off on pursuing legal action. Now the cleanup has apparently stopped.

Brinson said that RCAPC President David Osborne believes the commission’s attorney, John Ertel, needs “clear and concise directions” to proceed with legal action. “We’ve got a very good code and there’s teeth in this code, but if they’re (ordinances) not enforced, they’re useless.”

Some discussion followed on other zoning violations and Commissioner Lawrence Nickell said, “I don’t want to go after any ore (violators) because we’re not doing anything with what we’ve got.”

Commissioners voted to have Ertel send a letter to each violator who has already been given the allotted time for cleanup to notify he or she that unless his or her property is completely under compliance within 90 days, court action will be taken.

Commissioners asked about a situation on County Road 900 South in Brown Township in which a landowner is erecting a structure without a building permit and has refused to apply for one.

“If they’re building for themselves on their own property, they don’t have to get a permit,” Brinson explained. As long as they don’t hire anyone to help build, it’s legal, according to state law, he reported, adding that the county does have a right to go on the property to make sure no subcontracting is taking place.

“This isn’t a good situation. I don’t know why the state did that,” remarked Commissioner Lawrence Nickell. Brinson explained that the law was made for the Amish, who often swap labor when building, and has to apply to any citizen. He added that Steve Meyer, new county building inspector, is monitoring the situation.

• Batesville landowners Goose Gunter and Dan Shane spoke to commissioners regarding the gravel lane through their properties south of Batesville that leads to the WRBI radio station tower. The county has a 911 signal on the tower and officials have promised to eventually take over responsibility for the road.

“That’s a peculiar situation there,” said Brinson. “It’s currently gravel all the way back. We can take over the road after one year, but if he (Gunter) comes in and wants to put a subdivision back there, it’s up to him to blacktop it.”

Gunter said there are 94 acres in the plot that he and Shane eventually plan to deed to their children. “If it ever became a development, we’d have to come here anyway (for approval).” He said last month he had stone placed on the road and was presenting it for consideration as a county road.

Highway Superintendent Owen “Junior” Heaton said the road was fine except for one “soft spot.” Commissioners instructed Gunter to repair the place in question and then notify Heaton. Once Heaton gives his approval, there will be a 12-month waiting period. If the road is still acceptable at the end of that time, the county will officially take responsibility for it.

• With the fuel escalation prices the commissioners accepted in a bidding process earlier in the year threatening to drain the highway department’s budget, commissioners voted at the April 10 meeting to declare an emergency, which allowed them to call for quotes from known fuel suppliers.

“You’re here today to speed that process, even though bidding would have been our preference,” explained attorney Neil Comer to the company representatives. “It’s a little unusual, but we’re just trying to get through this. This is a tough time period.”

Quotes were accepted from three companies and a decision will be made later.

Commissioners earlier told John Lohrum, new county maintenance superintendent, that he may not be allowed to keep the county truck at his home much longer. “Gas prices are busting our budget all to pieces ... It’s something we really have to work on and think about,” said Nickell. Lohrum recently replaced Gene Bishop, who resigned.

Debbie McIntyre can be reached at (812) 934-4343, Ext. 114 or debbie.mcintyre@cnhimedia.com. To comment on stories, visit batesvilleheraldtribune.com.

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