Starke County Jail Site Receives Zoning Variance

The Starke County Jail project has cleared another obstacle: obtaining a zoning variance to proceed with constructing the new facility at the corner of State Road 8 and County Road 550 East. According to Planning Administrator Bruce Williams, the property is currently zoned as M-1; that is, Light Manufacturing, which poses a problem for the construction of the jail.

Williams said jail facilities are considered an institutional-type building, and the current ordinance does not list any districts in the area for institutional use. So, he said, whatever zoning district the jail would be interested in would have to be granted a special use variance. Williams said the proposed jail would comply with all regulations correlated to M-1 zoning.

On top of that, another issue that arose related to the communications tower that would be built next to the new facility. The city currently only allows for a maximum tower height of 100 feet, but as Williams explained, that restriction is nullified by FCC standards for public safety use. Since the tower would provide fire, police and other emergency communications, the tower is exempt from the maximum tower height restriction.

The variance was approved with two stipulations, according to Williams. He explained the east gate of the facility would only be allowed to be used for emergency purposes and, as the second condition, the Knox Board of Public Works would have to approve the storm-water facilities for the jail.

The county commissioners, jail committee and the jail building corporation will meet in a joint meeting on July 1 to review design development and estimates for the cost of the project. If approved by the commissioners, DLZ will proceed with the final design phase and begin the construction document phase for the project.