Talks continue on unified development ordinance


JASPER — Animal boarding, accessory structures and fences around pools — at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, the Jasper Plan Commission inched closer to finalizing a recommendation to the city’s common council that could soon lead to the altering of parts of the Jasper Unified Development Ordinance.

Though nothing was approved, the commission discussed the potential modifications for nearly an hour. The changes would affect where various-sized kennels and animal boarding operations are permitted; the required style and material compatibility of accessory structures in most zoning districts; as well as setback standards in residential districts and other code enforcement policies.

“We’ve always said it’s a living, breathing document,” said Paul Lorey, president of the plan commission. “So, annually, you’re starting to see some of that now. We’ll go through and we’ll review.”

He continued: “What do we have issues with? What’s being talked about in the public? What are we seeing in the [board of zoning appeals] meetings?”

The biggest chunk of the plan commission’s conversation on Wednesday was dedicated to the continuing talks regarding fences around swimming pools, hot tubs and spas. City code currently requires fences around swimming pools, and in recent months, a handful of Jasper government boards have discussed the possibility of allowing mechanical pool covers to take the place of a fenced-in enclosure.

Currently, that is not permitted, and variances cannot be given from the board of zoning appeals or the plan commission to allow residents to use covers in place of a fence. As of Wednesday, about a dozen Jasper pool owners were in violation of the ordinance.

Because of the public safety factor that comes with that decision, a majority of the plan commission members decided on Wednesday to not include language regarding the covers in their ordinance change recommendations — a move that would essentially recommend maintaining the policy currently in place.

“I’m pro-fence, I’m anti-hearing it,” said plan commission member Dan Beck. “That’s a public safety thing. I think it shouldn’t be up to a zoning board.”

Earlier in the meeting, Darla Blazey, the city’s director of community development and planning, said that she thinks the issue is greater than just building standards.

“This is a public safety issue, and that’s why it’s not in the UDO,” she said. “The UDO does talk about standards for the safety of the public at large, but in this case, the current ordinance is actually in the public safety section of the municipal code. It’s not in the development standards.”

The plan commission will discuss and vote on its recommended changes at its next meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the council chambers at City Hall. Those recommendations would ultimately require approval by the common council before going into effect.

More on