The Porter County Plan Commission recommended that the county’s Unified
Development Ordinance receive its first updates in nearly four years at a
special meeting Tuesday night.
After hearing the findings of a special committee, which has been convening
since February, the board voted to suggest the county commissioners, who
hold the final decision on the matter, approve two proposed amendments to
the current UDO.
Within those amendments, the board also recommended some of the process for
applying and receiving approval for developments that meet the standards be
streamlined. This includes eliminating public hearings in some situations.
“This was always intended to be a living and breathing document and since
its inception we have had problems,” county commissioner and board chair
Nancy Adams said.
Adams stated that every petition for development, major or minor, since the
UDO was adopted in 2008 has needed at least one variance and most have
needed several. The county has handed out 89 variances in that time. A
current case before the county’s board of zoning appeals, the proposed St.
Andrews multi-zone development near the hospital, is seeking 35 variances.
“We felt like it was time to tackle this and update (the UDO),” Adams said.
Both recommended amendments carried the stipulation that they be revisited
within one year.
There were a total of five amendments to the UDO on the agenda, but after
two-and-a-half hours of discussion, the board decided to table the other
proposals to a later meeting.
The first proposed amendment to the UDO heard Tuesday night also received
the most debate.
The committee eventually recommended changes to the subdivision guidelines
to include provisions for three types of subdividing by a 7-2 vote.
The three classifications, if approved by the commissioners, will now be
administrative, minor and major. The major subdivision ordinance will remain
unchanged, while the other two are created. The current UDO treats all
subdividing as though it were a major development.
The administrative division applies to cases in A1 or RR zonings where the
splits are 10 acres or more and a new one-time allowed split into five acre
plots. This type of division can be approved solely by the executive
The minor subdivision clause will be approved by a new plat committee, not
the entire board, in cases where land is being split into four or fewer
plots. Property will only be allowed to go through this process one time and
only if it hasn’t been part of a split since 1994 regardless of ownership
changes. The clause will also strongly recommend any splits be served by
private interior roads.
Dick Burns, who is also on the BZA and made the motion to recommend the
changes, said the county “needed changes to account for minor subdivisions.”
The majority of the board agreed with him despite vehement opposition from
board members Herb Read and Elizabeth Marshall.
Read said he was “totally opposed” to eliminating public hearings in any
situation and that taking cases out of the hands of the full plan commission
decreased the board’s significance.
Plan commission executive director Bob Thompson said it is in the county’s
interest to streamline the process for cases in which the petitioner follows
all of the guidelines. He also said even when matters are approved,
certified notices will be sent to any neighbors that could be affected and
they have the right to file an appeal.
Another major objection by Read was that the board was taking action on
these proposals too quickly, before the public had a chance to learn what
was going on.
“I have only seen two stories in the Chesterton Tribune about this,”
Read said. “There are many significant changes and I don’t think the public
Only one member of the public spoke at Tuesday’s meeting either for or
against the proposals and that was Charlotte Read, Herb’s wife.
The other recommended amendment on Tuesday regarded signage and was passed
by the board by a 9-0 vote.
The proposal called for updating the zonings where signs can be placed, such
as small ground signs in A1 or residential zonings and signs in P-zonings.
Currently all of those signs are illegal and need variances. For example,
now an owner in a A-1 zoning will be allowed to have a small sign stating
they are selling eggs. Also, according to the current ordinance, signs on
business such as golf courses or horse stables that are in park-zoned land
are illegal. That will be altered.
The board also
attempted to handle the influx of LED billboards. The proposal was passed
that LED signs will be allowed in industrial areas, but only after the
company constructing the billboard removes four regular billboards from