“We’re not trying to stick it to anybody,” assured Porter Town Council
member Mike Genger, who represents the 4th Ward Porter Beach area.
Nearly 50 people jammed the town hall Saturday to hear an explanation of the
proposed new rules for future beach development after its designation by the
Town Council as a Lakeshore Preservation District, which could come in
Residents’ comments ranged from support to skepticism. A formal public
hearing on the draft overlay, originally slated for this Wednesday, has been
postponed until Nov. 18.
“We want these questions but if people are coming with the attitude is
everyone in this room going to be happy, no,” explained Genger. “We want to
try to fix some of the problems that historically have occurred in town.”
Like landlocked homes built with no direct access other than stairs.
Structures built illegally in public rights-of-way. Zoning codes waived by
town officials or ignored.
Councilman Dave Babcock said while Porter can’t change history and undo
what’s been done at the beach, going forward the proposed regulations should
make things better.
The Porter Beach Overlay Committee’s 13-page recommendation could have been
more restrictive, noted town planner Jim Mandon, but its proposal now
forwarded to the Plan Commission for review is a good compromise.
“We’ve made it easier for people to develop at the beach. We didn’t make
stuff worse or more difficult,” assured Mandon.
“Yes you did,” replied Ray Cahnman. “All this is you’re basically targeting
underdeveloped and undeveloped properties. If you take it too far, you may
have some legal challenges.”
Save dunes at
Commented Gilbert Lehmann, “I’d like us to develop an attitude to save the
dunes ... not say “This is mine, I conquered it” instead of saying “I’m
living with nature.”’
Melissa Cohen and Ericka Brandstetter said the draft overlay is too vague
and open to interpretation regarding an approved plant list. Mandon said the
town will rely on experts to provide a list of acceptable plants that won’t
promote dune erosion.
“We don’t want people to knock everything down on the lot and bring what
they grew on the west side of Chicago,” said Mandon. Sod is not permitted in
the overlay proposal, all utilities must be placed underground, and plans
submitted for the building of new homes will require that more details be
Brandstetter questioned that a town permit is necessary for any
land-disturbance activity. “The way this is written makes it seem like
basically you can’t do anything on your property without contacting the
Jim Morsch asked if cutting a tree would require a permit. “If the public
isn’t educated about when a permit is necessary, that’s a problem.” Mandon
said whether an activity might have a negative impact is the trigger and the
town Building Department should be called to determine that.
Some asked if town inspectors would respond in a timely manner. Genger said
let council members know if a department is not perfoming up to
Mandon said the proposed zoning overlay doesn’t tackle architectural review
or protection of lake views because those require too many subjective
decisions for the building commissioner. He later said new provisions in the
overlay referring to “very steep” slopes and “major changes” to a lot slope
are not defined because engineers don’t agree.
If an existing home on a lot requires extensive maintenance or is completely
destroyed, maintenance or replacement is permitted when the new home stays
on the same footprint as the old house; a ranch home can be replaced with a
two-story structure on the same footprint.
Rather than imposing the town’s current front, side and rear-yard setbacks
of 30 feet, 7.5 feet and 35 feet respectively, at Porter Beach new houses,
pools, decks, and sheds would have to be at least a minimum of 15 feet from
any property line.
To promote open space at the beach, fences would not be permitted closer
than 15 feet from any property line unless they are landscaping fences no
taller than 48 inches and no longer than 16 feet. In the rest of town fences
may be 6 feet tall along the property line in the rear and side yards and up
to 42 inches tall in the front yard.
Mandon said the town Board of Zoning Appeals routinely has approved certain
petitions for beach variances, so why not just change the code and allow
property owners to do things that make sense by right?
Bill Lukach said he didn’t see how the overlay will change things a lot
because property owners still will have the ability to ask for BZA
Commission member Jim Eriksson also lives at Porter Beach. “We’re really
trying to work with you,” he told the audience, urging them to be part of
the solution instead of complaining about problems. “Come and voice your
Last month the Plan Commission unanimously scheduled a formal public hearing
on the overlay for this Wednesday, but it won’t take place. Town attorney
Patrick Lyp said staff felt it was important to receive feedback from
Saturday’s meeting first.
Lyp said the public still can comment Wednesday on the overlay, and the Plan
Commission will conduct a legally advertised public hearing Nov. 18 with the
intention for a vote on the overlay that night. Written comments may be
directed to the town hall.
The Plan Commission typically sends zoning changes to the Town Council with
a recommendation. The council then can adopt the overlay, reject it or send
it back to the Plan Commission with modifications for reconsideration, said
The commission’s Wednesday meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. or
following the BZA meeting, whichever is later. The BZA has five petitions on
the agenda and has moved up its meeting time to 6:30 p.m. although the
night’s public hearings won’t begin until after 7 p.m.