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BZAs show some variation across the state

Greg Slipher, Indiana Farm Bureau livestock development specialist, says the job of a county board of zoning appeals (often referred to as the “BZA”) is to approve or deny contingent uses, conditional uses, special exceptions, special uses and variances of standards in regards to zoning.

“The actions of a BZA are quasi-judicial, so its proceedings are like a court,” Slipher said. “An action becomes official when a majority of the entire membership authorizes it.”

The appointment guidelines of persons to a BZA are spelled out in Indiana Code 36-7-4-902. A majority of Indiana’s counties have an area or advisory plan commission. The third option is a metropolitan plan commission, and only Marion, Vanderburgh and Delaware counties are categorized as such.

Depending on the type of plan commission in your county, city or town, the appointment process of BZA members will differ. Below is a summary of the rules for appointing the BZA members as explained in IC 36-7-4-902. The two most common types of plan commissions are:

Advisory – Each division of the advisory board of zoning appeals consists of five members as follows:

  • Three citizen members appointed by the executive of the municipality or county (the mayor or the county commissioners), of whom one must be a member of the plan commission and two must not be members of the plan commission.
  • One citizen member appointed by the fiscal body of the municipality or county (city or county council), who must not be a member of the plan commission.
  • One member appointed by the plan commission from the plan commission's membership, who must be a county agricultural agent or a citizen member of the plan commission.

Area Each division of the area board of zoning appeals consists of five members as follows:

  • One citizen member appointed by the area plan commission from its membership.
  • One citizen member, who may not be a member of any plan commission, appointed by the mayor of the largest municipality in the county participating in the commission.
  • Two citizen members, of whom one must be a member of the area plan commission and one must not be a member of any plan commission, appointed by the county legislative body (county commissioners in all counties except  Lake and St. Joseph).
  • One citizen member, who may not be a member of any plan commission, appointed by the mayor of the second largest municipality in the county participating in the commission. However, if there is only one municipality in the county participating in the commission, then the county legislative body (county commissioners in all counties except Lake and St. Joseph) will make this appointment.

These are the two most common types of plan commissions. However, a few counties use alternate structures based on various factors. The full code descriptions of all types of plan commissions are available on the Indiana General Assembly’s website.

(Source: IC 36-7-4-902)