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June 6, 2013

Rezoning of old fire house disputed

More than dozen question building’s use as auction house

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Area Plan Commission was in the middle of another dispute Wednesday night as more than a dozen people showed up to question the proposed rezoning of a community building in the town of Sanford that formerly housed the Fayette Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Several firefighters and others showed up to speak in opposition to a request to rezone the former fire house building for use as an auction house.

 They questioned the sale of the building and expressed concern that closing the fire house has increased area homeowners’ insurance rates.

“There’s a lot of unhappy people” in the Plan Commission meeting room, said John Schoffstall, chief of the New Goshen Fire Department, which is about seven miles away and now provides services in Sanford, which is on the Illinois/Indiana border.

The long-standing dispute also involves what to do with any proceeds from the sale of the old Sanford fire house building, which also served as a community center. Floyd Mason, who purchased the building for an auction business, said after the meeting that the proceeds will be given to the New Goshen Fire Department within a year after expenses are paid.

The Indiana Attorney General has taken an interest in the question and is asking to be informed of any action taken by the Plan Commission, said Fred Wilson, commission president. He also noted that the legal dispute is beyond the commission’s authority.

“The line we’re going down here is outside our scope,” Wilson said, urging the commission to take no action for at least a month.

 The AG’s office has indicated it will need about 30 days to look into the matter, Wilson said.

The commissioners voted to “table” the rezoning” until next month.

n Also Wednesday, the Plan Commission opened discussion of a proposed ordinance to regulate oil and gas drilling operations in the county.  The ordinance would impose new regulations on such operations, which have mushroomed in the county in recent years.

Two people spoke in favor of the regulations but asked that they be strengthened, especially regarding odors and public safety.

Prior to their 7 p.m. meeting, commissioners heard from Herschel McDivitt, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources division of oil and gas, and other state officials concerning mineral extraction rules, Wilson said after the regular meeting.

That meeting, which was in response to the proposed ordinance, was helpful to commission members and spelled out, among other things, areas in which state and federal authorities have jurisdiction, Wilson said.

The proposed regulations, if adopted, would become part of the Vigo County Unified Zoning Ordinance. The Area Plan Commission is likely to consider the ordinance for several months, Wilson said.

n The Plan Commission’s next scheduled public meeting is at 7 p.m. July 3 in the Vigo County Annex.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

 

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