Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners OK US 6 overlay district and conservation fee

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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.

Commissioner 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.”

Commissioner Jim 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.”

Liberty Twp. 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.

Commissioner Laura 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 Commission.

Stormwater conservation fee

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 reduction.

Property owners 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,” Good said.

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 salary.

911 upgrades

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 himself.

P4 Global, the consultant hired by the Commissioners earlier this year, will facilitate the meetings, Biggs said.

In other matters:

-- The 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.



Posted 3/15/2017




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