A comprehensive plan that encourages preservation of Porter County’s scenic
beauty in the face of likely development pressures along the major roads won
unanimous approval Wednesday from the Porter County Plan Commission.
Capping more than a year of planning meetings and public workshops, the plan
commission formally endorsed the Porter County Corridor Study, a plan that
outlines development scenarios along the county’s major roads including
Meridian Road, Ind. 49 and U.S. 6. The plan will now go before the Porter
County Commissioners for final adoption as part of the county’s Unified
Development Ordinance on May 19.
Some plan commission members indicated that they aren’t thoroughly satisfied
with the document. Robert Detert said he would have liked to have seen
greater emphasis on a new north-south connection, such as the long-planned
Ind. 149 extension. Elizabeth Marshall said the plan “missed the boat” in
the Wheeler community, with a call for redevelopment of the Wheeler Landfill
but not to revive the now-closed businesses. Herb Read, meanwhile, said the
plan goes too far in identifying certain areas -- such as a stretch on U.S.
6 east of Ind. 49 --- as likely development areas.
But as plan commission attorney Scott McClure emphasized, the corridor plan
doesn’t commit the county to anything, but will serve as a guide for
planning decisions, much like the county’s 2001 comprehensive master plan
and thoroughfare study. “It is not meant to be, nor is it seen in the
courts, as a binding document,” he said.
Still, said Plan Commission President Robert Harper, also a county
commissioner, the plan is significant, as it is one in a series of new
planning endeavors that the county has accomplished in recent years. He said
the county is now “light years” ahead of where it was just a few years ago
with new regulations on issues such as drainage and stormwater and open
Harper commended the plan commission members and staff for the many hours
they spent on the corridor plan and the other planning projects. Citing the
commissioners’ meeting the night before, when a group of residents outlined
their drainage problems that many blamed on an inadequate plan when their
subdivision was first developed, Harper said the intent of the county’s new
planning rules is to ensure that past development problems don’t occur
“You can visualize how pretty this county can be if we stick to this plan,”
The corridor plan, available online at
on the plan commission’s page at
at a study area along more than 120 miles of road in the county’s
unincorporated areas and gives specific recommendations for both development
and open space preservation along each corridor.
Pete Fritz of Ratio Architects, the consulting firm that prepared the
document, said he believes this is the first time in Porter County that all
utility services have been mapped. The planning process included a market
analysis that identified where along the roads new development is likely to
be proposed. But the plan also identifies where development is restricted or
not suitable, such as areas of prime farmland or scenic vistas.
The market study component identified several areas that will likely be
proposed for development, including a large stretch along U.S. 6, most of
Meridian Road extending to Valparaiso, Ind. 130 west of Ind. 149, a section
of U.S. 30 east of Ind. 49, and a section of Ind. 49 north of Kouts.
Fritz emphasized that that doesn’t mean development will occur or should
automatically be allowed in those areas. But if they are to be developed,
the plan outlines a host of options, including designs based on public input
received in the planning process.
The public workshops showed strong preference for keeping new developments
adjacent to or within existing cities and towns, Fritz said. He commended
that mindset, noting that it is part of the smart growth planning principle.
The public also favors inward-facing commercial developments, which include
a landscape setting and protective buffers and which encourage people to
park in the rear of the buildings and walk more to their destination.
Another example of a pedestrian and eco-friendly development design included
in the plan could apply to industrial parks, in which a drainage ditch
onsite could be maintained as a pedestrian walkway, with wetlands and other
plantings that would also serve as a water filtration system.
The plan also promotes pedestrian trails and wildlife crossings, or
established places under or over roads where wild animals can safely cross.
Planner Tim Cole said at first he was skeptical, but his research has shown
that wildlife do indeed use such crossings. “We’ve got to live with nature,”
he said, as he lamented the number of animals that die when they’re unable
to safely get across roads.
Wednesday’s plan commission meeting included a public hearing on the plan.
Though about a dozen people were in the audience, only one -- Ed Gutt of
Liberty Township -- spoke.
Gutt commended Fritz for getting public input in the corridor planning
He urged support for establishing access roads to keep the main roads
congestion-free, and for leaving as many trees as possible along the
roadways to give motorists a sense of open country. He also spoke in support
of limiting new commercial developments within city or town limits.
“We don’t need strip malls along every corridor,” he said.
Gutt did say, though, that he feels the county has not adequately followed
its UDO, a criticism that Marshall said she agrees with.