Lanesville approves comprehensive plan
By Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer
Following a special public hearing on its recently completed comprehensive plan, the Lanesville Town Council, during its regular monthly meeting Nov. 14 at the town hall, voted to approve the plan.
The plan was drafted through a cooperative effort funded by the Harrison County Community Foundation, which agreed to supply grant monies to support drafting comprehensive plans for each of the county’s 10 incorporated towns. In the works for more than a year, Lanesville was the first town to vote on a finished plan. New Albany planning firm The Wheatley Group partnered with the town through the process.
The council heard a presentation on the draft plan during its regular October meeting and discussed it further during a special meeting Oct. 28. Several suggestions, including correction of clerical errors and updating the town’s population to reflect its most recent census count, were compiled during the October meetings. Those changes were incorporated into the final version, which was made official by a 2-0 vote; councilman John (Tom) Walter was absent.
The plan will now go before the Harrison County Plan Commission.
Amy Williams, of The Wheatley Group, was on hand to provide a summary of the plan’s intent and scope and provided background on the process for the county and its other nine towns. She also noted the plan was a collection of recommendations.
Mark Shireman of the HCCF was also in attendance and mentioned the county’s plan for its unincorporated areas was slated to be completed by mid-2023 and noted each plan contains a multitude of strategies tailored to the individual tastes of the communities.
“We’re not dictating anything; we’re just here to help,” Shireman said.
Several residents attended the regular October council meeting to voice concerns about a section of the plan that mentioned development at the Interstate 64 exit 113 interchange. Large residential projects have been proposed for the area south of the interstate.
The council, as it noted during the October meeting, clarified that the interchange is well outside the town limits, giving the council no jurisdiction on future development there. The interchange was only included in the plan because the town does provide sewer service to the area. As a result, it would continue to be obligated to extend sewer service to any future homes or businesses, so long as it could spare the surplus flow. That possibility was included to assist with long-range utility planning.
“This comprehensive plan in no way speaks to any of those developments out there,” councilman James Powers told the audience.
Several residents of Country Lane expressed concerns about the proposed developments and the possibility of zoning changes and future annexation. The town would only be able to annex land in the area if its boundaries were contiguous to a tract it sought to add, and, due to the interchange’s distance from town limits, that possibility remains unlikely.
Council president Herb Schneider said the town’s sewer system currently operates at about 20% of its capacity under normal circumstances and at about 50%T on a day with significant rainfall. The town would have no obligation tied to water service at the interchange and surrounding areas.
“We don’t go outside the town limits with the water,” Schneider said.
The town has been in talks with Harrison County about a sewer plant expansion but nothing has been decided.
“It’s all kind of up in the air,” Powers added.
In another matter addressed during its regular meeting, the council received an update from attorney John Smith on the West Pennington Street extension project.
Smith said he has been speaking with property owner Timothy Gruver and work continues to secure necessary rights-of-way. Appraisals have been completed for property in question, and Smith noted it is the town’s goal to navigate that process without expending a significant amount of money.
The possibility was also discussed that monies Gruver put toward the acquisition could possibly be credited toward future water and sewer tap-on fees should he choose to construct duplexes on nearby property.
“We can write up a proposal,” Smith said.
Utility superintendent Terry Schmelz reported to the council that while the treatment plant was running in compliance with its state permit, there was an issue with a pump that would not prime and an air meter was replaced on a sludge pump.
“We’ve got some issues with gaskets somewhere,” Schmelz said of the non-priming pump.
Schmelz also mentioned forced main sewer lines had been installed at the former Camp Cedarbrook, as part of an ongoing improvement project undertaken by the camp’s management. He also presented some options for repairs on the control panel at the lift station. A generator could be used to power the station while repairs were underway.
“It would be a day’s project from start to finish,” he added.
Town Marshal Brad Graves gave his first monthly report after being sworn in at the October meeting. He said the reserve force worked 72.5 hours in October for a computed savings to the town of $1,631.25. So far, savings for 2022 are $22,381.86. The department also assisted with the Haunted Heritage Halloween event Oct. 25 and 26 and he said the town’s trick-or-treating occurred with no incidents.
Utility clerk Alicia Allen noted 480 bills were issued for October and three accounts were opened with three closed. Five adjustments were granted, Allen said, while 41 delinquent letters were sent and three accounts had services shut off.
Clerk-treasurer Amanda Ballew discussed the fact that the town has no protocol in place for disposing of bad debt, such as outstanding utility bills and fees due for foreclosed properties. The town can file a lien on the property and turn over to debt collection, she said.
Smith recommended the town begin the process to write off bad debt associated with a foreclosed home on Whispering Valley.
“We don’t have anything,” Ballew said, adding that she would draft a bad debt ordinance for consideration by the council.
In other business, the council:
•Heard from Powers the suggestion that the town and Lanesville Jaycees discuss installing a digital sign for the marquee at the Jaycee park.
•Resolved to begin installing Christmas lights.
•Received a petition from residents and their attorney seeking closure of Abby Way, a platted street that has never been approved. A hearing will likely take place at the town council’s next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. at the town hall, and adjoining property owners will be notified.