Plan to ease growing pains Planners work to limit sprawl, manage growth

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Shelby County planners are about 90 percent finished with a plan that targets sprawl and unmanaged growth.

With an updated comprehensive plan, the Shelby County Planning Department hopes to ease the pains associated with the county’s massive growth spurt.

The idea is not to lasso and hog-tie all growth, officials say, but merely to corral development into areas where it is anticipated and can be guided.

&uot;We want development to go where we plan for it and not where we have to respond to it,&uot; said senior planner James Ponseti.

&uot;If we are having to respond to it, it’s too late.&uot;

Creators of the new plan hope it can prevent the traffic problems and lack of centralized communities caused by unplanned or &uot;leap frog&uot; development.

&uot;Think older towns,&uot; Ponseti said. &uot;We want places to be more like they used to be &045; centered around villages and towns &045; and less of this sprawling suburbia.&uot;

Ponseti said the village-center idea promotes a sense of place and makes for smoother traffic structure.

&uot;Not only does that have a warm and fuzzy concept, it also addresses many of the logistical problems of sprawl such as traffic congestion.&uot;

But a county comprehensive plan is limited, officials say, by lack of authority inside city limits and limited zoning in the rest of the county.

Although the planning department hopes to work closely with Shelby County’s municipalities, it has no power to control what goes on inside city limits.

And the biggest obstacle facing planned growth is a lack of countywide zoning, Ponseti said.

The planning department’s authority to zone in unincorporated areas is restricted by the beat system.

Of the 23 Shelby County beats, only seven have voted to become subject to county zoning.

More than half of the county is unincorporated and unzoned.

&uot;We feel like a larger county-wide zoning cooperation is necessary,&uot; Ponseti said.

At least five more beats have showed an interest in voting for zoning, said Nancy Campbell, a resident of Beat 14 who has petitioned for a zoning vote.

But Campbell said section 8 of the enabling legislation makes the process a difficult one.

&uot;Because the flawed legislation (section 8) forces the citizenry to get petitions to try to get a vote for zoning beat by beat … that places an unfair burden on the taxpayer/property owner who wants to protect property values from unwarranted, unwanted and poorly planned development,&uot; Campbell said in an e-mail to the Reporter.

&uot;The current legislation (section 8, once again) … makes for Hop-scotch, uncoordinated zoning throughout the county.


literally attack the unzoned areas, not caring if they are coordinated with surrounding areas. This leads to unbearable traffic, the inability for the county to provide services and underfunding for the then necessary infrastructure such as new schools, adequate roads and sewer and the like. This is also the reason why we have an annexation nightmare,&uot; she wrote.

Campbell was active in much of the public involvement stages of the plan.

In recent meetings to discuss implementation strategies, she met with planning department officials to discuss Section 8.

&uot;This process started two years ago with town meetings and the public has had an opportunity to participate at every step,&uot; Ponseti said.

Officials said the plan could be completed by the end of the year.

At that time, it must be adopted by both the planning department and the Shelby County Commission.

&uot;If we continue to chase sprawl, it will never get better,&uot; Ponseti said. &uot;You can’t make roads wide enough.&uot;