Chesterton Tribune



Planners cast wary eye on request for more impervious surface in Springdale PUD

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The ordinance for the Springdale planned unit development--located immediately south of 1050N and immediately west of Abercrombie Woods--provides for 23 paired patio homes, 22 of which, so it turns out, are absolutely unbuildable under the terms of the ordinance itself.

As Ed Recktenwall, land development manager for Olthof Homes LLC, told the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission at its meeting Thursday evening, due to Olthof’s small but significant miscalculation of impervious surface, total lot coverages which should have been in the range of 46 to 51 percent are “coming in at 55 percent.”

That mistake was discovered, Recktenwell said, when Olthof began, earlier this summer, to seek building permits for some of the paired patio homes. Olthof, he explained, had not been including in the lot-coverage calculations such impervious surfaces as sunrooms and patios, but only the footprints of the paired patio homes themselves.

As previously approved by the Town Council, the Springdale PUD ordinance already grants a substantial lot-coverage variance for the paired patio homes: from a maximum of 30 percent, as stipulated by the Zoning Ordinance (40 percent for corner lots), to as much as 50.9 percent.

So planners were taken aback on Thursday when Recktenwall requested an amendment to the PUD ordinance which would increase to 55 percent the permitted lot coverage for the 22 lots in question.

They were taken aback even more, however, when Recktenwall requested an additional amendment: this one to increase lot coverage from 30 percent to 35 percent for the 23 single-family homes to be built just east of the paired patio homes in the middle of the site. Recktenwall told planners that Olthof has already sold nine lots and that one of the buyers is interested in a larger patio and a side-entrance garage, which would increase lot coverage and hence impervious surface. That buyer, Recktenwall emphasized, is the only one of the nine so far seeking a larger patio and side-entrance garage. Even so, he said, “We don’t want to put limits on a customer’s choice. We would like to be able to offer these options to other buyers.”

So let’s summarize: Olthof may not, as matters stand now, build any of those 22 paired patio homes because the total lot coverage of each--that is to say, the impervious surface--would be in outright violation of the previously approved PUD ordinance; and Olthof also wants the option of increasing the impervious surface on the adjacent 23 single-family lots.

As far as planner Sharon Darnell is concerned, that dog won’t hunt. “The paired patio homes don’t fit?” she echoed Recktenwall. “Don’t you think you guys should’ve figured this out before, insteading of putting us on the spot? Have you talked to your single-family client about the requirements of the town?”

“I have not,” Recktenwall replied.

“What are you going to do when someone wants to build a swimming pool?” planner Jim Kowalski asked.

“They’d have to build on a bigger lot or come back here and try for a variance,” Recktenwall said.

"You’re putting this board in a tough situation,” Kowalski responded. “I mean, this blows my mind. Why not change your product a little bit?”

“That would be very difficult at this point,” Recktenwall said.

“So we do all this so it’s easier for you?” Kowalski pressed.

“That’s a fair question,” Recktenwall conceded. “The impervious area is a little difficult to understand. We built in Morgan’s Corner and we didn’t run into any issues out there. I’m not trying to put the board in a tough position.”

“You guys have been doing this a long time,” Kowalski noted. “You mean you didn’t figure this in? Are the lights on but nobody’s home? It gets a little ridiculous to us, when you try to put 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag.”

“What’s Plan B if this board doesn’t grant the petition?” planner Dan Marchetti wanted to know.

“We don’t have one,” Recktenwall said. “We’d have to go back and figure it out.”

“Has this ever happened before? Marchetti wondered.

“This would be a first,” Recktenwell said.

As the residents of Abercrombie Woods to the immediate east know, the real issue isn’t how much lot coverage there is per se. Rather, it’s how much impervious surface is precluding effective drainage. Because extreme Southwest Chesterton is historically a pretty wet place with a pretty high water table. Which prompted Kowalski to ask Town Engineer Mark O’Dell about the stormwater system installed at Springdale.

Every paired patio home has a sump pump, 90 percent of those sump pumps are directed to rear yards, and every other rear yard has a drain, O’Dell said. It would be easy enough, he suggested, for Olthof to add a rear-yard drain for every lot. But O’Dell wanted to make one thing very clear: the lot coverage for the single-family homes to be built on the far eastern edge of Springdale--Abercrombie Wood’s far western edge--should under no circumstances be increased beyond the maximum 30 percent permitted by the PUD. “The neighbors in Abercrombie all got 30 percent,” he said. “So you don’t want to change those Springdale lots on the east side.”

Darnell, who lives just down 1050N from Springdale, wasn’t ready to abandon the issue of drainage, noting that Olthof spent much of last fall and this past winter de-watering the site. “I live in this area and when it rains I know what happens,” she said. “We’ve gone through this water problem before in this area.”

Planner Cassie Hammar, for her part, actually lives in an Olthof home, in Morgan’s Corner, and she has reason to doubt Olthof’s dedication to proper drainage. “The drainage in the backyards is deplorable,” she said. “They’re just pooling with water, with how you guys sloped the yards. You tried to fix the problem with a French drain but you put it at a higher spot than the lowest area. There are bugs and it stinks and it’s not pleasant.”

Planner Jeff Trout wondered whether Olthof could mitigate the proposed increase in impervious surface by increasing green space in the overall development by the equivalent area of 11,500 feet.

Yes, O’Dell said. Olthof could increase the size of the detention pond. “There’s a cost to that but that would be a way to mitigate it.”

“You’d be asking for additional commitments,” Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson warned Trout.

Planner Fred Owens, for his part, suggested replatting lots 61-70 five feet to the west, thereby increasing those lots’ square footage and commensurately reducing lot coverage. “It’s just lines on a page right now,” he said. “It would be pretty easy.”

In the end, Recktenwall was prepared to abandon the second proposed amendment, the one which would increase maximum lot coverage for the 23 single-family homes to 35 percent. “We’re willing to back off the single-family homes,” he said. “We can go to the client and tell them to pick a different lot.” But Olthof will still need either to persuade the Plan Commission to amend the maximum lot coverage for the 22 paired patio homes or else find a more radical solution to the problem of its own causing.

Members were unwilling to decide anything on Thursday, voting unanimously to continue the preliminary hearing to their next meeting, Oct. 15.



Posted 9/21/2020




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