Advisory Plan Commission
J.R. Stillman, Chairman
Authority: IC 36-7-4-201
What Plan Commissions Do
In Indiana, as elsewhere, most plan commissions devote much of their time to considering petitions which require commission recommendation or decision.
Doing the job well involves more than showing up at meetings. It means learning about planning, about your community, listening to citizens, visiting sites involved in cases before the commission, and perhaps serving on subcommittees.
The primary duty of the plan commission is to develop and recommend to the legislative body a plan for the future of the community. This plan should form the basis for the commission’s decisions and recommendations.
Unfortunately, few plan commissions succeed in making the overall plan their top priority. Constant pressures from property owners and developers command the commission’s attention, and most meeting time is spent making recommendations on rezoning requests and decisions on subdivision proposals.
Many commissions also find it difficult to adhere to the plan when they are confronted with a hearing room full of people advocating a position inconsistent with the plan.
Some commissions confuse the zoning ordinance with the plan, but the zoning ordinance is distinct from the plan. In Indiana, as in most other states, the law requires the community to adopt a plan before it adopts a zoning ordinance. This provision is sensible; the community should not adopt regulations until its citizens have decided on the goals they want to accomplish with those regulations.
Advisory plan commissions serve a county, city, or town. In Indiana, municipalities are empowered to plan for an area up to two miles outside the corporate boundaries. In counties with no comprehensive plan, municipal plan commissions may assume this authority from the county. In a county with a comprehensive plan, the municipal plan commission must request this authority from the county legislative body. (If municipal services are provided to the “extra-territorial area, the municipal plan commission may assume this authority from the county.) The county must adopt an ordinance granting this authority to the city or town. When a municipal plan commission assumes extraterritorial jurisdiction, it must file with the county recorder a map and description of the territory involved.
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