Agricultural preservation, redevelopment focus of Greene County 20-year plan

Planning documents that guide development in Greene County for the next 20 years are focused on preserving local farmland and guiding infill development, though new feedback shows affordable housing is the challenge to tackle next.

The document, titled Perspectives 2040, was adopted by the county commission earlier this month.

Major goals of the document include protecting farmland, preserving natural resources, and revitalizing communities, as well as focusing on balanced land development, a diverse local economy, and enhanced quality of life.

“Things are happening really quickly in Greene County right now. We have so much growth happening in a variety of ways,” said Regional Planning Executive Director DeAndra Navratil, adding that the agency has already starting to do the required update for 2025.

The multi-year process for developing the document began in 2020, Navratil said, and reflects the things that residents were feeling at the time. This included preservation of Greene County’s trail systems, and the controversy surrounding the proposed Kingwood Solar project.

Residents’ feedback suggested that development and industrialization have placed pressure on agricultural areas, and those residents voiced strong support for adaptive reuse, infill, and other methods in existing urban and suburban areas that are seeking investment, documents show.

“A lot of people came out and really emphasized that we do prioritize agriculture. It’s a part of our heritage, it’s our community identity, especially on the east side, and they wanted it to continue that way,” Navratil said.

The key is to strike a balance between preserving agriculture without hamstringing development in the county, she said. Early residential feedback for the document’s first five-year revision indicates affordable housing is a priority, particularly with the Honda-LG battery plant being built to the east near I-71 and U.S. 35.

“People want to live in Greene County. They want to enjoy all of the amenities that we have, in our parks and our trails, but making sure that we have that affordability for a variety of people, and the diversification, so that’s another thing that we were looking at,” Navratil said.

The majority of the county is still in agricultural use, while most of the western third of the county is devoted to suburban and rural residential areas.

Perspectives 2040 is not a legally binding document, officials said, but it does give local governments something to reference when considering the future of their townships, and zoning code language. Ultimately, township governments have the final say on what actually becomes policy in their jurisdiction.

One of the most immediate changes residents may see is new zoning codes that allow for more senior residents to age in place, Navratil said. So-called “accessory dwelling units” are rising in popularity as fewer and fewer of the older generations are going into nursing homes, preferring to stay in their houses or have some other form of assisted living.

“That’s something we know a lot of our zoning inspectors in different townships get requests for on a regular basis,” she said. “People are wanting to find ways to have their mother-in-law suite, or they’re having their grandparents living near them.”

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