Changes possible for unified development ordinance


JASPER — With the Jasper Plan Commission’s annual Unified Development Ordinance review in full swing, a handful of potential changes could soon affect various enforcement policies throughout Jasper. Six total were discussed at a recent commission meeting, their topics ranging from residential issues to zoning for renewable energy farms.

“We always want to be looking at what’s in the best interest of our community in terms of best practices,” said Darla Blazey, Jasper’s director of community development and planning.

No action has been taken to change the current rules and regulations regarding the following topics, but modifications could be coming in the near future.

A recurring topic at zoning board meetings in 2019 has been the compatibility of accessory structures — like metal pole barns, for example — on residential properties. The plan commission is currently looking into clarifying that language in the UDO.

“We have quite a few people coming in, wanting to put up a pole barn in their backyard, and they have an all-brick home,” Blazey said. Currently, that kind of construction requires a variance.

“The [UDO] language says it has to be compatible in style and materials,” Blazey said. “So, it’s just pretty gray. We’re looking for more clarification on what exactly that means.”

Also discussed at length at various city boards in recent months is the topic of swimming pool and fence standards — specifically, whether a mechanical pool cover could take the place of a fence around a pool.

Also, at a recent meeting, downtown merchants discussed how open spaces in downtown buildings are being filled with professional offices and service-related businesses.

“And some of the retail owners are worried about that,” Blazey said. “If it all becomes offices and all becomes service things, then will people come down anymore to shop?”

She explained that other communities have a percentage of spaces that must be retail to prevent such an outcome.

The definitions of kennels and animal boarding and where those are allowed has also raised questions, as has the parking of cars in front yards in spaces other than a driveway.

“Most people feel like your parking should be on the side of your home or in the back of your home,” Blazey said. “Not in the very front yard.”

Wind and solar farms were also discussed at the plan commission meeting earlier this month.

“As renewable energy starts expanding in Indiana, are we prepared with our zoning code, to allow for those in certain areas?” Blazey asked. “Because right now, we have nothing.”

Blazey noted that more changes than the ones mentioned in this story could be discussed at future meetings. Ultimately, any modification or update to the UDO would be sent as a recommendation to the Jasper Common Council for public hearings and final approval.

When the UDO was adopted in 2017, the plan commission vowed to review, reassess and make clarifications in the document every year. That’s exactly what is happening now, and those who would like to share their opinions on these issues or more are encouraged to contact Blazey at or by calling city hall at 812-482-4255.

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