Chesterton Tribune

Duplex in single family neighborhood rejected by Porter BZA

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Douglas Leicht said, “I didn’t know what I’d get” when his petition went before the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals for public hearing last night.

Neighbors in person and by letter unanimously opposed his request leading the BZA to deny Leicht a use variance to rebuild his fire-destroyed duplex in a single-family zone. The property is located at 910-912 Portage Ave.

Vote Wednesday was 3-0 against with Lorain Bell and John Kremke absent.

Leicht said the duplex was there since 1940 and replacing it with a modern structure will improve the neighborhood. He said he purchased the duplex as an income property so renting a single-family home instead will not give him the income needed to sustain the investment.

One of five considerations for the BZA was needed to determine whether granting the use variance ran counter to the Porter comprehensive plan that encourages non-conforming uses, like a duplex in a single-family zone, eventually be phased out.

Town planner Jim Mandon said to grant a use variance, the BZA also needs to find that a hardship exists, typically something peculiar about a structure or the lot, not merely that an economic hardship from loss of rental income will occur.

Four neighbors of the Portage Avenue address weighed in, all against, and several form remonstrance letters from additional neighbors were received and read aloud. Norbert Milzarek told the BZA, “We want it to revert to Residential-1 like it’s supposed to be. That’s the consensus of the property owners.”

Richard Wilson said the previous owner prior to Leicht lived in one side of the duplex giving the property more stability, not an absentee owner with two sets of transient renters moving in and out. Charles Barriball said having another duplex there could reduce property values for the single-family neighbors.

In his rebuttal Leicht said any one of the remonstrators could rent their homes to a tenant if they choose, and if he is forced to rebuild a single-family home that won’t stop people from moving in and out of it so nothing would change.

Porter resident Jennifer Klug asked about the town’s requirement that if a non-conforming structure is damaged more than 50 percent, it should come into compliance with the current zoning codes. Klug felt it was unfair to hold a property owner to such tough standards if a structure is destroyed through no fault of their own by disaster or in Leicht’s case, a fire.

BZA member Bill Sexton said the requirement was debated when the comprehensive plan was updated in 2004 and the conclusion was it’s better to get rid of islands of non-conforming uses so Porter’s more uniform throughout the town.

“Following standards is how you keep it from being arbitrary,” Sexton told Klug.

On BZA member Ken Timm’s motion to deny, Sexton and Henry Huyser joined him in voting yes.

Following the BZA, the Porter Plan Commission met briefly electing absent Lorain Bell to be the commission’s appointment on the BZA. Commission members Brenda Brueckheimer and John Kremke also were absent.

Mandon offered to contact a representative of commission petitioner Carolyn Trepper, who hasn’t attended the past two meetings; she had sought a rezoning to build 13 duplexes south of Old Porter Road but was advised to file for a planned unit development instead. The matter was tabled until March 21.

By separate votes BZA and Plan Commission members both hired Jessie Campaniello as their new secretary.



Posted 2/16/2012