Chesterton Tribune

Big changes proposed for Porter County zoning laws

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By DOUG ELISH

Tuesday evening’s special meeting of the Porter County Plan Commission Board has the potential to radically change the county’s development ordinances.

The special meeting was called to review and discuss proposed changes to the Unified Development Ordinances (UDO) that are being recommended by a special committee. The UDO review committee, which is made up of commissioner Nancy Adams, two plan commission board members and local developers and business owners, has been studying the current UDO over the past months and is presenting a new 61-page document publically at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Board members were just presented with the lengthy and complex document late last week and it’s unclear if a vote to recommend the changes to the commissioners will be held Tuesday or at a future plan commission meeting.

A major proposed change would be a minor subdivision ordinance, which has been rejected by county officials in the past, and would allow a parcel to be split in four sections without adhering to the subdivision-creation guidelines. There would also be no limit on how many times an owner could subdivide in this way or a limit on time between such requests.

In addition to that ordinance a committee is being proposed to hear such requests, so minor subdivision requests could be approved without knowledge of the entire board or a public hearing.

Another major change would be to the planned unit development (PUD) ordinance. A PUD allows for the mixture of zoning areas and the proposal would greatly lessen the restrictions on developers.

Plan commissioner board member Herb Read said he was “livid” about this proposal because it would give developers little resistance to do things such as build commercial properties on zoned park land.

“The revised PUD would allow them in any zoning, including parks,” Read said. “It doesn’t come out and say the restrictions on park land are going to be removed, but it just makes it possible that someone could put a PUD on it. Then it basically makes any other restrictions moot. (Developers) can do whatever they want that is permitted in a PUD.”

Some of the other changes in the proposed document include reductions in landscaping and open space requirements, changes to the storm water standards, changes to signage limitations and an amendment to the property maintenance ordinance.

Read said he believes some of the proposed changes are good and some he disagrees with, but his major concern is that the new document will be pushed forward Tuesday without allowing time for the board to give it proper review. Read said some of the proposed changes have come up before but had been opposed by officials including former commissioner president Bob Harper.

“I haven’t even read all of the 61 pages and I have found things that I think are to the determinant of those of us who want to preserve the environment and existing residential areas,” Read said. “The whole concept (of the proposed changes) is to make things easier and cheaper for developers.”

 

 

Posted 10/31/2011