This map shows parcels that are included in the Franklin buffer zone that could soon be returned to Johnson County for planning zoning jurisdiction. Parcels that are within the buffer zone are outlined in red.

Map provided by Johnson County Planning Department

The return of Franklin’s buffer zone to Johnson County planning jurisdiction cleared one of its first hurdles Monday night.

In a unanimous vote with two members absent, the Johnson County Advisory Plan Commission issued a favorable recommendation for the return of Franklin’s buffer zone to the county during their regular meeting on Monday. The buffer zone has been in place since around 1965, but in recent weeks city and county officials agreed the zone is no longer needed.

The process to remove the buffer began during the plan commission meeting on Monday, where a public hearing was held on an amendment to the county’s zoning map that would bring jurisdiction of the buffer zone back to the county. One member of the public commented in favor of the proposed changes and no one commented against the proposed changes.

Legally called extraterritorial zoning jurisdictions, buffer zones were created to give the cities and towns jurisdiction over how the land near their boundaries is developed. With buffer zones, a city or town gets a say in planning and building processes, while the county remains on the hook for providing services.

There were once buffer zones around Bargersville, Greenwood, Franklin and Edinburgh, but over the years Bargersville and Greenwood dropped their buffer zones. Franklin and Edinburgh still have buffer zones, but after Jan. 1, Edinburgh’s will likely be the last buffer zone standing. No changes are currently planned for Edinburgh’s buffer zone.

For the county’s zone map amendment, Planning and Zoning Director Michele Hansard told the commission she converted Franklin’s current zoning classifications for the land to an equivalent zoning type under Johnson County.

“In order to best serve the people in those homes, and not make them go through and rezone with special exceptions their pool or their barn, I thought it’d be best to zone them for what they’re actually using the property for, which is usually residential or agricultural,” Hansard said.

The process for the amendment is very similar to a rezone, but in this case, it’s the county establishing jurisdiction, she said. It will also eliminate the issue of a landowner in the buffer zone wanting to build something that the county allows, but Franklin does not.

“From my perspective, the best thing about this is you eliminate that confusion,” plan commission member Charlie Canary said.

With the county plan commission’s approval, the proposal will move up the ladder. The city’s plan commission will also need to amend the zoning map to reflect the buffer zone’s end.

The Franklin Common Council and the Johnson County Commissioners will also have to approve the maps.

If all approvals are given in December, the new zoning maps would go into effect on Jan. 1.