Chesterton Tribune



County Planners takes a new look at US 6 overlay standards

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Porter County Planners five years ago put a plan together to establish the U.S. 6 overlay district with the intent to guide new development near Porter Regional Hospital.

The plan was approved for recommendation to the County Board of Commissioners unanimously by the Plan Commission in April 2012, following months of gathering input from the public and work by a special committee to study the U.S. 6 corridor. However, the County Commissioners never did vote on an ordinance and the district has yet to be implemented.

It appears that the overlay district will get another chance as the Plan Commission Wednesday voted 8-0 to send a favorable recommendation to the Commissioners on a revised overlay plan for their consideration.

Director of the County Department of Development Stormwater Management and Development Robert Thompson said the Commissioners in 2012 had dropped the plan over concerns they had with the design standards, particularly in the central area near the Ind. 49 bypass where the hospital is located.

County Attorney Scott McClure said the current Commissioner Board, consisting of three members who were not in power in 2012, is making the effort to get the issues addressed because new properties and development will be coming soon. They hope adding the U.S. 6 overlay district into the County’s Unified Development Ordinance (UD) will eliminate confusion for developers and property owners about what exactly the standards are instead of having to worry that the rules could change.

“The reason we put this together is we are anticipating a significant amount of development in this area. There is a reason why specific rules were made for this area so it is time to get this back on track,” McClure said.

The corridor will keep the same four subdistricts as previously discussed. A far West subdistrict between Portage city boundary to Ind. 49; a West Central district from Ind. 149 to a quarter mile west of Meridian Rd.; a Central subdistrict from a quarter mile west of Meridian to Calumet Avenue on the east of Ind. 49; and an Eastern subdistrict from Calumet Ave. all the way to the LaPorte County line.

Thompson said new changes to the ordinance include having the existing gas stations in the central subdistrict at Meridian Rd. and N. Calumet Ave. be in conforming use. Gas stations and convenience stores will be allowed within 1,320 feet of the east and center lines of Meridian Rd. and North Calumet, he said.

The overlay district will be held to its own standards and the code will not apply to other overlay districts like the arterial road overlay and the scenic roadway overlay within Chapter 3 of the UDO. Thompson said before there was nothing in the ordinance to prevent applying those codes. The U.S. 6 overlay will have buffer requirements less than what is required for other overlay districts.

Also, Thompson said he would like to remove the requirement for a 6/12 roof for any non-residential development. He said instead of requiring developers to come in for a variance, he’d rather have the plan commission or development review committee approve the roof design based on review.

The ordinance still encourages having pitched roofs, Thompson said. If developers want a flat roof, they will need to make sure that all mechanical equipment on rooftops are hidden from plain view, he said.

Most of the ordinance covers access management. It will apply the same standards posted by the Indiana Department of Transportation, Thompson said.

Nearly a dozen Liberty Twp. residents attended the meeting, many of whom are members of the Woodville Foundation which is a non-profit dedicated to monitoring and influencing future development of the township.

Resident Tim Cole, who sat on the plan commission at the time the district was proposed, said he continues to support the ordinance. He said a large number of residents supported the overlay in 2012 because “it meant orderly development.”

The overlay should be in place, he said, considering the area has many features now like the hospital, the adjacent business park and Sunset Hill Farm County Park and it could “get messy” with future developments.

“People are interested in Porter County and they are getting interested in U.S. 6,” he said.

Ed Gutt and Herb Read who live along U.S. 6 urged that the ordinance maintains its buffer zone. McClure said the required buffer between commercial and residential properties is 40 feet, with something in between such as a fence or landscape buffer.

Gutt asked that buffer zones be made compatible with residential properties.

Tanner Trace resident Terry Dee said that he hopes the ordinance addresses light trespassing in consideration of the residential properties

Resident Sandra Johnson said her concern is flooding of new homes on CR 900N. She hopes the new ordinance will address violations to fix issues. She said she was told before that the County did not have staff or funding available to monitor or make improvements.

Replying to Johnson, Thompson said his department is aware of the drainage issues as it was one of the top ten projects mentioned in the County’s study of stormwater runoff. With the creation of the County Stormwater Management Department and the user fee approved by the County Commissioners, the office now has an avenue to alleviate drainage woes in the Damon Run Watershed.

The Commission voted 8-0 to accept the changes and forward them with a favorable recommendation to the Commissioners. Absent on Wednesday was planner Luther Williams.

The Commissioners will hold a public hearing for the U.S. 6 Overlay ordinance on first reading at their next meeting -- Tuesday, March 14, at 10 a.m.

Physician’s office rezoning tabled

At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, the Commission voted a third time to continue Dr. Maryann Jones’ request to rezone ten acres on the north side of U.S. 6 between 75 West and Meridian Rd. from a Manufactured Home Park district to Moderate Intensity Commercial District for a proposed physician’s office/medical clinic.

Attorney for the petitioner Todd Leeth said that Jones is not ready to proceed and if the petition is revived, he will let County planning staff know.


Posted 2/23/2017





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