Jackie Jeffries, a bus driver for Trimble County Schools, speaks about her position on zoning to magistrates at Monday night’s meeting. (Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
Jackie Jeffries, a bus driver for Trimble County Schools, speaks about her position on zoning to magistrates at Monday night’s meeting. (Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
Trimble County may be just one meeting away from adopting new zoning regulations, after its Fiscal Court voted narrowly Monday night to amend the existing ordinance and voted down a motion to repeal it.

Heated dialogue between residents on both sides of the argument dominated most of the meeting as magistrates moved forward on an issue that has gripped the county since last year. Supporters of zoning have said it would protect against future solid waste farms from moving into the county, while opponents have argued the regulations are overkill in rural communities like Trimble.

Fiscal Court approved the first version of the ordinance in November 2018, after working for two years on a set of regulations. Opposition from some magistrates and the community led the court to suspend enforcement in January until August and then conduct a first reading to repeal in July. When a second repeal reading came up a month later, magistrate Kenny Green motioned to table that, giving members of the Trimble County Planning and Zoning Commission time to amend the ordinance to minimize restrictions while protecting against future companies like R&R Septic and Excavation, which tried putting a “sludge farm” in the county this summer.

Members of the planning and zoning commission have since worked closely on the zoning laws with Tom FitzGerald, a part-time contract attorney with a history of land use cases. If the amendments were to pass, Commission Chair Mike Pyles said, they recommend a Jan. 1, 2020 enforcement start date.

Magistrates Kenny Green, Chris Liter and Kirby Melvin voted in favor of the amendments, while magistrate JD Jones and Judge-Executive Todd Pollock voted no. Jones and Pollock then voted in favor of a repeal, but were again outvoted by Liter, Green and Melvin.

A crowd of 50 to 60 — big enough to move the meeting from the judge-executive’s office to the courtroom — had plenty to say about zoning’s implications for residents.

“I don’t own much land, just a little bit over an acre, but I pay taxes on that acre. If I decide that I want to put up a shed, or whatever, I don’t think that I should have to go to the county, to the courthouse...or any of the magistrates and get a permit and pay for that permit,” said resident Kathi Seabolt.

Pyles stepped to the podium and addressed concerns over permits and additional costs that come with zoning. Residents who want to build structures less than 576 square feet on their property do not need a permit under the new zoning laws, he said. Anything more would cost five cents a square foot.

Autumn Kruer, a resident of the county for about 30 years, echoed Seabolt’s opinion. Having lived on the east end of Louisville, she said she came to Trimble County because it gave residents more freedom over property.

“To me, it is a liberty issue... my ancestors, like many of us here, fought for libertly. They fought over a 5% tax. They were willing to die to be able to do what they wanted with their property and their income and their land. And that’s my stance on planning and zoning,” Kruer said.

Peggy Wainscott, a supporter of zoning in the county, voiced her position.

“We don’t need to turn this into a big fight and have the county all turned against each other...it’s to protect us, it’s not to hurt the farmers, it’s not to hurt the individuals, it is to protect our county and our kid’s future, because we dodged a bullet with that sludge farm. That could have been a disaster. It could have polluted our water. It could have made it so that our kids couldn’t have gone to the park — there are all kinds of horrible things that could have happened. The traffic in and out of the county, we heard all of that, and we need that here, we need something that’s going to protect us the most that we can get, and what we have isn’t going to do it...I really just think that Trimble County is worth it,” Wainscott said.

Pyles stepped up again and said the county only expected to give 20 to 40 permits a year. Amendments to the existing zoning ordinance would only require permits for new construciton, not renovation, he said.

Jackie Jeffries, a bus driver for Trimble County Schools, said she had seen the effects of the nearby landfill on the condition of the buses. Although not a fan of zoning, she said she sees the need to keep similar operations out of the county.

“I’m not worried about that $30. But I am worried about my property value,” Jeffries said.

FitzGerald, a key adviser in the ordinance-drafting process, also addressed residents’ concerns. He acknowledged that while top-down, “cookie-cutter” zoning laws may have not worked for other communities, an ordinance tailored to the community’s needs could be a useful tool in preserving land.

“It’s not my position to come and tell the good folks of Trimble County whether you should or should not have zoning and planning....Properly administered, properly designed, it’s a tool to use to protect people’s homes, to protect people’s land, to protect people’s freedom,” FitzGerald said.

Magistrates also spent a fair amount of time discussing what it could cost to enforce zoning. Magistrate Jones said the county had budgeted $15,000 for enforcement but wouldn’t be surprised if it exceeded that amount. Nearby Henry County spends about $100,000, and Gallatin County spends about $68,000, he noted.

“It’s either going to raise taxes, or we’re going to have to come up with money somewhere,” Jones said.

Another potential obstacle would be deciding who enforces zoning regulations. Magistrates discussed using current solid waste coordinator Michaela Dziedzic, similar to how Scott County enforces zoning with its waste coordinator, but were also reluctant to tack that addition onto her job duties right now.

Pollock said the decision on who would enforce was “up in the air” as of Wednesday morning.

The unofficial date for the next reading could be Dec. 2, he said.