Chesterton Tribune

County to review proposed changes to small development rules tonight

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When the current development standards for Porter County were approved in late 2007, the idea was for the document to be revisited every year for updates.

After more than three years of operating under that Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), a committee was formed this February to analyze how it was working.

One of the main findings of the committee after nine months of meetings found was that the UDO worked well for large developments, but created some unnecessarily complicated situations for individual property owners and small developments, according to county commissioner Nancy Adams.

The committee, which was comprised of Adams, members of the plan commission board, members of the board of zoning appeals, county planner Bob Thompson along with a local lawyer, developer and architect, will present a modified document to the plan commission board and the public at 6:30 tonight at a meeting in the Porter County Administration Building.

In all, there are expected to be six proposed amendments to the current UDO, five of which will be presented tonight. Amendments to the codes in the categories of Subdivision Control, Development Plan, Planned Unit Development, Signage and Property Maintenance will be on the agenda. Changes to the Storm Water code will be discussed at a later date.

The major proposed changes will be the reinstatement of two standards that had been cut out in the agreement enacted on Jan. 1, 2008, a minor subdivision clause and planned unit developments.

The proposed minor subdivision ordinance will be to allow property owners a one-time division of their property into a maximum of four lots only if that property had not been previously subdivided under the old minor subdivision guidelines.

Any additional subdividing would force the owner or developer to abide by the large development guidelines.

Adams said the changes were important because the current UDO guidelines were forcing property owners to hire lawyers and get expensive computer-modeled drainage studies to build houses on their property or make minor changes.

“The UDO is really for large subdivisions,” Adams said. “They didn’t take into account small subdivision, single-home ownership or commercial. It’s great for large subdivisions but not for the other things. Each area needs to be addressed separately; that’s why we formed the committee.”

The planned unit development (PUD) is another guideline the county had in the past but which hasn’t been used since 2008. There are at least five PUDs in Porter County from the old agreements and Thompson said they should have a place if done correctly. A PUD is a mixed-zoning development that has different standards than normal abutting zoning areas

Bringing back the PUD standards is another way the committee is attempting to lessen the number of variances and make the developing process less complex. Adams said there have been more than 89 variances granted in the last two years and Thompson said there hasn’t been a single development since 2008 that hasn’t needed at least one variance from the BZA to move forward. The top two requested variances had to do with landscaping and storm water maintenance.

“The UDO is just not working the way it is supposed to be working,” Adams said. “A lot of people have trouble just reading it. We wanted to make it less complicated, easier to understand and make things easier to accomplish. When you have that many variances coming to the BZA it puts them in a tough situation too because you want to help someone out. If we can make the UDO more accurate people won’t need all those variances and they can just adhere to it.”



Posted 11/1/2011