Chesterton Tribune



Plan Commission discusses the curious anomaly of split zones

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Turns out, the Chesterton Zone Map is inaccurate.

As Town Engineer Mark O’Dell told the Advisory Plan Commission at its meeting Thursday night, more accurate mapping technology and GPS data have revealed nearly 70 anomalous “split-zoned” parcels in the older parts of town.

In most cases, the parcels are located in R-2 or R-3 neighborhoods which abut commercial or industrial zones, with odd “leakages” from the latter into the former. Thus, for instance, the front two-thirds of three parcels on Brown Court are zoned R-3 but the rear third is zoned I-1. A slim wedge of the backyard of an R-2 parcel on Taft Street is zoned B-2. And one half of a parcel on South Seventh Street is zoned R-3 and the other half B-2.

The question for planners: what to do about the problem of split-zones? are they even a problem at all?

O’Dell thinks that they are, or potentially could be. The owner of a split-zoned parcel who wants to build a porch in his backyard or an addition could very well fall afoul of the Zoning Ordinance--since what’s permitted in an R-2 zone may not be in an I-1 zone--and would accordingly need to obtain a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals. The BZA would in all likelihood grant such a variance, but it would still cost the homeowner time, effort, and money.

On the other hand, as Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson noted, it’s entirely possible that some of the parcel owners are fully aware of the split-zone, purchased the property specifically with that split-zone in mind, and intend to make use of it.

In any case, Parkinson said, the Plan Commission may not change any zones without proper notification to the parcel owners and a public hearing. Perhaps the wise thing to do for now would be simply to send the parcel owners letters informing them of the split-zones and of the possibility that, in the future, the Plan Commission may consider taking steps to remedy the anomalies. Because, as Parkinson observed, “We don’t go out of our way to change the Zone Map.”

O’Dell anticipates one further complication. “Let’s say you’ve got a swath of area and the middle guy doesn’t want the zone changed,” he said.

“I can see the benefits but I can also see its opening a can of worms,” planner Jeff Trout said.

“That’s the question,” as planner Tom Kopko put it: “Do we want to kick a sleeping dog?”

Nothing firm was decided on Thursday, although it appears that rather than kicking a sleeping dog, planners intend instead just to kick the can down the road. As Parkinson noted, there’s absolutely no urgency in the matter, and maybe the issue would best be addressed by the committee currently working on an update of the Chesterton Comprehensive Plan.

“I’d be delighted to pass this off to the people working on the Comprehensive Plan,” Stone said.

O’Dell’s reason for raising the issue in the first place certainly worked, though. “I just wanted to start a dialogue,” he told planners, “just give you something to think about.”


Earlier in the meeting, by unanimous votes, planners did the following:

--Re-elected Sharon Darnell as president, Fred Owens as vice-president, as Gayle Murawski as secretary.

--Releaseed a letter of credit in the amount of $12,800--in support of an infrastructure guarantee--to the developer of the Residences of Coffee Creek.

--Accept3ed a cashier’s check in the amount of $6,738--in support of a sidewalk guarantee--from the developer of the Brassie Phase I.


Posted 1/20/2020




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