Chesterton Tribune

Graham and Read question proposed drainage rule changes for small developments

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A meeting to discuss recommended additions to the county’s stormwater ordinance and manual in Porter County’s Unified Development Ordinance followed a similar pattern seen at recent plan commission meetings introducing a series of amendments to the UDO.

Planners Sylvia Graham and Herb Read prepared a list of concerns they wanted clarified by those proposing the amendments. A committee was formed last year to look at what was working in the UDO and many of the same regulations are included in proposed additions but will apply to smaller subdivisions and developments, said Plan Commission Executive Director Bob Thompson and President Nancy Adams.

At the start of the discussion, Graham voiced disapproval of implementing any changes to the ordinance, contending the current UDO practices are working. Changing the rules, she said, would muddle the distinction of what applications are performing properly.

“I have some concerns about the (amendments) on a whole. I’m not sure we need to have updates to the stormwater ordinance,” said Graham.

Believing that growth in the county is inevitable, Graham was concerned the changes could have an adverse effect on areas that have drainage hardships such as the Damon Run watershed.

Thompson said the amendments would actually give the county more flexibility to make further improvements, such as the ability to perform studies and adjust the release rate in Damon Run if needed. The plans take into consideration protecting environmental factors that were brought up in UDO committee meetings similar to what is already in the UDO, he said. The new standards would apply mainly to minor subdivisions and smaller developments left out of the UDO. For larger subdivisions, no changes or additional regulations will be made.

Just as in the five other sets of amendments suggested by the UDO committee, the additions aim not to be lenient on development plans, but make planning less arduous for the developer or homeowner who would normally need to procure numerous variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals ever since the current UDO was enacted in 2008. Some stormwater provisions require trees to be removed from a water basin and retention ponds in front yards but, as has been demonstrated, may not be best for all developments.

Thompson said the amendments would also give them freedom to use other “good and acceptable” engineering procedures besides having to create a detailed computer model of the developing basins that would require a large amount of input on the developer’s part.

He also said that Porter County Drainage Board President Dave Burrus has suggested a system to regularly check or investigate developments taking place.

Plan Commission attorney Scott McClure clarified saying there are no radical changes being made and that the amendments are very specific, accomplishing the same outcomes of the existing stormwater ordinance. “This is not in any way an overhaul of that ordinance or stormwater manual.”

Graham and fellow planner Herb Read appreciated the explanation but both strongly insisted that somewhere in the ordinance it should be clearly stated that developments cannot drain stormwater on to their neighbor’s property without their permission to do so.

“Until we get that clarification, that’s going to be a problem,” said Read.

Thompson and Anthony Kenning of DLZ Indiana showed in the amendments the different sections that prohibit developers from doing such a thing, setting the grading and floors at specific elevations.

Read also feared that some of the proposed code requirements relating to environmental elements are worded so broadly that they would allow any developer to do what they pleased. Kenning said those sentences could be stricken and reviewers will be there to see if developers actions are “environmentally justifiable.”

Other suggestions Read made included a clearer definition in the code on wetlands and another suggestion the county should not advocate building in a floodplain.

Graham said she is still hearing complaints from residents living in subdivisions experiencing flooding woes. Thompson said the new amendments would give him the ability to enforce UDO standards on future developments where solutions could be made but cannot touch older developments like subdivisions that were developed under former codes, some dating back almost 30 years.

The commission refrained from voting on the amendments as Adams announced at the start of the discussion the goal that evening was to hear questions from plan commission members and smooth out the areas that drew concerns. The case was continued, by unanimous vote, until the next planner meeting in February. Also tabled is a sixth group of amendments concerning property maintenance.

“It’s a good start on getting all this cleaned up. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s step-by-step,” said Adams.

Some members made plans to gather informally next week to make additional changes in preparation for the February commission meeting.

In other business, the planners voted 7-0 for secondary plat approval of the Vendramin Subdivision located along CR 400E in Jackson Twp.

Officers Retained for 2012

The planners voted to keep the same officer appointments from last year. Adams was voted president for a second year and Richard Maxey will again take the vice-president seat. Thompson will continue as executive director in the planners’ staff appointments and McClure was picked as the commission and BZA attorney.

Planner Tim Cole was reappointed as the planners’ representative on the BZA board.

 

 

Posted 1/12/2012