Nearly six years
after the Porter County Plan Commission set out to create an overlay
district specifically for development around U.S. 6, the Board of
Commissioners adopted the measure Tuesday by a unanimous vote of 3-0.
The County began to
work on an overlay district in 2011 with public workshops as Porter Regional
Hospital was being constructed near the Ind. 49 bypass. The plan has
remained generally the same since then, with guidelines for development such
as uses, landscaping and access. The Plan Commission voted twice in favor of
recommending it become part of the County’s Unified Development Ordinance,
once in April 2012 and again last month by a vote of 8-0.
Director of the
County’s Department of Development and Stormwater Management Robert Thompson
said the corridor will consist of four sections, each with their own
requirements. The first would be a subdistrict from the eastern limit of
Portage to Ind. 149 in South Haven. The next would reach from Ind. 149 to a
quarter mile west of Meridian Rd. A central subdistrict would encompass
Meridian Rd. to Calumet Ave. and an eastern subdistrict would go to near the
LaPorte County Line.
A major part is the
access management plan, Thompson told the Commissioners Tuesday, which is to
make sure there is enough drive separation for safe entry onto U.S. 6. The
ordinance also ensures that commercial parcels are interconnected with
appropriate access to them, he added.
President Jeff Good, R-Center, said he isn’t sure why the overlay district
was shelved for so long, as it will be instrumental for controlled planning.
“This is part of
the march towards good smart planning as we go forward in this county in
handling any growth we have,” Good said. “The growth we will see affects
roads. It affects everything.”
Biggs, R-North, said it is “a benefit to the people of Liberty Twp.” to have
the overlay district in place. “I believe it brings more organization. It’s
somewhat of an insight into what it might look like 30 years from now. I’m
glad it’s there.”
resident Ed Gutt, who was on the committee which worked on the district in
2011, thanked the Commissioners for taking action.
Gutt said he spoke
on behalf of the Woodville Foundation which favors the ordinance. “We look
at this as an incentive for us to have a voice and we are looking to get
something started in the TIF out there. This will be great in that area and
it is suitable to integrate with the folks that are there,” he said.
Gutt said the
Foundation looks for the opportunity to discuss with the County its opinions
as development transpires.
Shurr Blaney, D-South, expressed her support and said that TIF, or tax
increment finance districts, is “another issue.” The prospect of a TIF area
has been discussed around the hospital by the County Redevelopment
Just before the
approval of the overlay district, the Commissioners voted 3-0 on an
ordinance to create a conservation fee for the Stormwater Management System.
Thompson said the
conservation fee will be 11.5 cents per month for an acre, which comes to
$1.38 annually. That is roughly half the user fee for agriculture
properties, $2.75 annually per acre.
To receive the
conservation fee, the property owner must appeal to the Stormwater Advisory
Board and the Stormwater Management Board for approval. Both boards last
month adopted criteria for whether a parcel may be eligible to receive a fee
must demonstrate a plan for how stormwater runoff on the property will be
managed, how benefits will be protected in perpetuity, offer access to the
public and have signage describing how the benefits are working on the
property for educating the public.
While the owner
pays a lower fee, the County will benefit because this will work to satisfy
the public education component required by the federal MS4 program without
having to spend money, Good said.
“I think it is very
creative. People in the state have told us this is a very unique way of
handling this,” Good said. The impressive thing, he said, is that giving
standards for a conservation rate was thought of by citizens on the
Stormwater Advisory Board after hearing opposition by conservation groups.
“We took something
that was a little contentious and we turned it into a working document,”
In a related
action, the Commissioners approved an amendment to the Stormwater Management
Department ordinance to include highway engineering duties. This would give
the County $20,000 from the state to Department Engineer Mike Novotney’s
Biggs, at the end
of the Tuesday’s meeting, announced that a committee has been formed to take
charge of researching what needs to be done for the 800-megahertz upgrade to
the County’s 911 Communications Center and first responder system.
On the committee
will be a representative from the Sheriff’s Department, the Chesterton Fire
Department, Valparaiso Police Department, Morgan Twp. Volunteer Fire
Department, County Council member Jeff Larson, R-at large, and Biggs
P4 Global, the
consultant hired by the Commissioners earlier this year, will facilitate the
meetings, Biggs said.
In other matters:
Commissioners approved a $6,925 change order to install 10 outside cameras
at the Porter County Jail. Mike Jabo of DLZ Indiana said the cameras had to
be changed out because of lightning damage last summer. Surge protection and
more insulation will be put in to prevent future damage. Jabo said the Jail
Security Upgrade project is nearly complete.
-- An X-ray
services contract with Porter Hospital was renewed at the request of the
County Coroner’s Office.
-- In hopes of
doing more business, the Porter County Expo Center will start charging a
flat fee for horse barn rentals instead of offering rental for individual
stalls. This will allow renters to bring more horses under one fee.
-- A faster fiber
optic connection will be installed at the County Prosecutor’s Office. County
ITS Director Don Wellsand also said the fiber for the current Animal Shelter
facility on Heavlin Rd. will be removed once the new Shelter opens.
-- An agreement
with SK Installations was approved to install kennels at the new animal
shelter facility. Martins Security will provide a fire alarm system and
security to the shelter for three years.
-- Bids for
bituminous material were opened for the Highway Department. The five bidders
included Central Paving Inc., Walsh & Kelly, The Klink Group of Companies,
Town & Country Paving, Hoyt Asphalt and Reith-Riley Construction. Several
equipment quotes were approved for the Highway Department including a new
air compressor from McCann Equipment for $17,000.