VERNON — The future development of Jennings County will depend largely on what commercial interests are allowed near the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center and the future U.S. 50 bypass.
That’s according to the comprehensive plan prepared by more than 30 residents for the Jennings County Economic Development Commission.
Members of the steering committee that drew up the plan include elected officials, real estate professionals, agribusiness representatives and several others.
The plan, which is the first to be developed for Jennings County in 18 years, contains a strong warning concerning commercial growth along the future bypass.
It emphasizes that care must be taken that any new business “does not detract from the local business in the heart of the urban areas in North Vernon and Vernon, causing their eventual decline and decay.”
One recommendation is that a common land use plan for the bypass route be adopted by Vernon, North Vernon and Jennings County officials.
Among other things, the land use plan should strive to preserve prime agricultural land and other natural resources.
While the plan calls for more local input into the final bypass route, commission executive director Kathy Ertle said the state will likely make the final choice based on environmental and financial factors.
In regards to the training center, the plan recommends that an “influence zone” be established that gives both the military training center and Butlerville residents a voice in determining appropriate development.
It also calls for a feasibility study for a business and industrial park that caters to defense industries between North Vernon and Butlerville on U.S. 50. In addition, the influence zone would include housing for military personnel.
However, the plan recognizes there will be little residential development elsewhere in Jennings County in the near future.
A high number of foreclosures and declining home values have been cited as significant reasons. Instead, the plan calls for extensive improvements in existing residential neighborhoods.
Some short-term goals include restoring deteriorating properties while encouraging diverse housing prices.
Another recommendation calls for establishing a coalition or task force that would address local housing issues.
Because North Vernon has the only public wastewater treatment facility in Jennings County, the plan calls for developing satellite treatment plants.
It also points out that western Jennings County’s proximity to Interstate 65 and other major highways makes that region desirable for economic development.
A feasibility study is recommended as to whether a treatment plant in that area would make it more desirable to potential employers.
The plan also calls for extending existing utilities both north and east of North Vernon.
In terms of natural resources, a number of steps were suggested to protect the Muscatatuck River, which is the source of water for most Jennings County residents. It also calls for better use of outdoor recreation areas to boost local tourism.
There are three purposes for the plan, according to EDC officials:
- To deliver a vision of the future based upon the desires of residents
- To provide a geographically comprehensive document that covers a wide range of issues
- To make a commitment to a future course of action.
Under conditions of a funding grant, the Jennings County Economic Development Commission must ensure the plan is completed by the end of the year.
However, elected city and county officials are not likely to vote on its provisions until next year.