It is commonly understood that county residents abide by the regulations of the county, Madison residents abide by the regulations of Madison and Hanover residents abide by Town of Hanover regulations. It also is commonly understood that residents of each area turn to the county or the two incorporated areas for services and other help. Except if those residents live in the ‘buffer zone,’ which is now a source of confusion and much conversation among the three entities. The two-mile ‘buffer zone’ surrounding the incorporated areas of the City of Madison and the Town of Hanover are shown by the shaded areas. Some streets and roads on the outside of the area are identified to help understand the boundaries. The streets and roads for the internal boundary between Madison and Hanover are not marked. The information for this map was provided by the Jefferson County Surveyor’s Office.
It is commonly understood that county residents abide by the regulations of the county, Madison residents abide by the regulations of Madison and Hanover residents abide by Town of Hanover regulations. It also is commonly understood that residents of each area turn to the county or the two incorporated areas for services and other help. Except if those residents live in the ‘buffer zone,’ which is now a source of confusion and much conversation among the three entities. The two-mile ‘buffer zone’ surrounding the incorporated areas of the City of Madison and the Town of Hanover are shown by the shaded areas. Some streets and roads on the outside of the area are identified to help understand the boundaries. The streets and roads for the internal boundary between Madison and Hanover are not marked. The information for this map was provided by the Jefferson County Surveyor’s Office.

Unless you’re a resident of what is commonly called in this county “the buffer zone,” you may never have heard the term.

The two-mile area that surrounds the City of Madison and the Town of Hanover has been the subject of discussion between county and city officials since late last year. It is now moving into an arena to solicit public input.

More than a dozen county and city officials met Feb. 5 at the county commission office to discuss how to begin discussions about the area, which is now split between the county and the two incorporated areas in terms of who regulates building and zoning and provides services.

The next meeting — a session in which the public is invited to provide input — is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Madison’s City Hall. Questions can be emailed to Madisonpc@madison-in.gov

Jefferson County commissioners, Madison’s mayor, Town of Hanover representatives, building inspection officials, survey department officials and members of the planning commissions and zoning appeals boards are expected to be there.

The recent discussions between Madison and the county began in the last few weeks when the county without notice to Madison or Hanover took action near the end of 2019 to rescind a county general ordinance that had, in essence, given to Madison and Hanover zoning enforcement oversight in the two-mile area. The language the county used to describe the action it was taking said “the present zoning ordinance is amended to remove the restriction against county zoning enforcement within the two-mile buffer zone and that the current zoning map is rescinded and replaced by the attached area of zoning enforcement map, which eliminates the prior two-mile buffer zone of zoning enforcement.”

In response to a notification letter from then-commission-president Robert Little, Madison Mayor Bob Courtney responded in a letter that said:

“The City of Madison and Jefferson County have shared land use oversight responsibilities since the two-mile buffer zone was originally established in 1963. The two entities share in the oversight of the zone through joint participation on our Plan Commission and Board of Zoning appeals. In addition, the City of Madison has made substantial investment in the buffer zone to promote economic development, improve roads, sustain property values, and deliver water and sewer utility service to residents in the buffer zone.”

Courtney asked for a 180-day delay in action by the county so the two entities could work toward a solution. The county commission then enacted a 180-day moratorium on its action and plans began for the joint discussion.

Both Little and Courtney acknowledged that residents in the buffer zone frequently are uncertain what governmental unit to contact about services and why property owners in areas where the county line and the buffer zone meet are required to adhere to different regulations.

Madison’s website under the Plan Commission information says:

“The Plan Commission office administers the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Historic District Board of Review, and the Plan Commission. It issues building permits, performs building inspections, enforces land use ordinances, enforces zoning regulations, and nuisance ordinances.” (City planning officials note, however, that the city does not enforce nuisance ordinances outside the city limits of Madison, which means it does not enforce in the buffer zone.)

The county’s website says:

“In Jefferson County, the County Surveyor serves as the Director of the Jefferson County Planning & Zoning Office. Building Inspection & Floodplain Administration are also functions of the Planning & Zoning Office. The County Surveyor is a voting member of the Plan Commission by virtue of the elected position and a technical advisor (non-voting) to the Board of Zoning Appeals. The administrative office and staff of the Planning & Zoning Office is co-located and shared with the Surveyor’s Office. (The county’s nuisance enforcement is under the zoning office, which does not have jurisdiction in the buffer zone.)

“The Plan Commission oversees and approves new plats of subdivisions in the county (outside of the City of Madison’s and Town of Hanover’s zoning jurisdictions). The Plan Commission acts in an advisory capacity to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners and sends recommendations to the Board of Commissioners on proposed new laws regarding zoning and subdivision regulations. The Board of Zoning Appeals holds hearings to consider and make decisions on appeals to the Jefferson County Zoning Ordinance.

“The Plan commission office staff writes building permits and approves surveys in the County Zoning. The office provides zoning enforcement for the county through its Zoning Enforcement Officer. The secretary serves as secretary to the surveyor and to the Jefferson County, Indiana, Board of Zoning Appeals and the Jefferson County, Indiana, Plan Commission. The secretary handles preparation of the appeals for the Zoning Board of Appeals and any applications or items to go before the Plan Commission. The building inspector issues building permits, conducts inspections of new construction and issues Certificates of Occupancy for completed construction.

Neither Little nor Courtney were able to provide a number for how many residents live in the area, but a search of the area against Census tract records found 2,468 structures in the Madison area and 859 in the Hanover area. That does not mean all of the structures are residences; some could be businesses or other structures, but it is as close to a number as could be obtained. Residents of the buffer zone do not vote in municipal elections.


Where and what is the ‘buffer zone’

It is commonly understood that county residents abide by the regulations of the county, Madison residents abide by the regulations of Madison and Hanover residents abide by Town of Hanover regulations. It also is commonly understood that residents of each area turn to the county or the two incorporated areas for services and other help. Except if those residents live in the ‘buffer zone,’ which is now a source of confusion and much conversation among the three entities. The two-mile ‘buffer zone’ surrounding the incorporated areas of the City of Madison and the Town of Hanover are shown by the shaded areas. Some streets and roads on the outside of the area are identified to help understand the boundaries. The streets and roads for the internal boundary between Madison and Hanover are not marked. The information for this map was provided by the Jefferson County Surveyor’s Office.

Public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 19, 6:30 p.m., Madison City Hall