Chesterton Tribune



No paperwork, no decision on Childress Porter farm request

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The Porter Town Council faced a packed room Tuesday as it prepared to make a decision on resident Paul Childress’ request to rezone his property to open space for a self-sufficient farm at 1035 N. Wagner Rd.

The Council got as far as having a second on Council member Erik Wagner’s motion to deny before it was stopped by its attorney Greg Sobkowski for not having an ordinance in hand.

In order to authorize, or deny, a rezoning, there would have to be an ordinance for the Council to vote on, Sobkowski said. While the rezoning request was on the meeting agenda, it was not listed as an ordinance.

Town Director of Development Michael Barry affirmed that no ordinance or resolution was produced since it was the decision by the Plan Commission in October to make no recommendation to the Council, either for or against the petition.

“There was no recommendation so nobody drafted an ordinance,” Barry said.

The Council ended up tabling the matter to its Dec. 13 meeting once it realized it was deadlocked until an ordinance was ready.

“You couldn’t do it on a motion. You would need an ordinance to take action this evening,” Sobkowski told the Council. While Sobkowski is attorney for the Council, he is not the attorney for the Plan Commission. That is Laura Frost, who was not present Tuesday.

Council President Greg Stinson apologized to the many residents who turned out to hear the outcome of Childress’ request. “This should not have happened,” he said.

More comments

Earlier, the Council took a few audience comments after Stinson asked that no one rehash the concerns addressed during the public hearing and subsequent comments. The Council has read the minutes from the hearing and understands the neighbor’s about possible decreases in property values, odors, noise from equipment and animals, disposal of animal waste, methane gas recovery and the question of what value this would add to the town, Stinson said.

Comments from the floor Tuesday included Susan Wright who said she thinks spot rezoning sets a bad precedent.

Baillytown residents Tracy and Duane Dibble said they would like to know if a new property owner could decide to use the property for something else. Tracy Dibble also wished to know if any soil testing had been done on the Childress property. The property was at one time used as a NIKE missile base, having been decommissioned in 1965.

Childress said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has tested the soil on the property for a few years now and found no issues. He said he also submitted a soil sample to the Town.

A few audience members rattled off questions about what would be allowed on the property if a new owner were to come in should Childress sell it, a concern that was brought up at the last Plan Commission meeting.

If someone wanted to use the property for something other than open space, they would need to get a rezoning, Stinson said.

Childress said he thought rezoning to open space would be more desirable than putting in a “28-home subdivision” that would have more noise and traffic than a farm operation.

Another neighbor, Cindy Tilden, said she has great concern over what the development would do for the flow of stormwater as it was so bad at one time she had “a canyon going through (her) property.” The Town recently spent money to remediate problems in the Wagner Hills Subdivision and Stinson added that Childress helped with that by allowing water to drain into a detention pond on his property.

In Council comments, Wagner said his concern is having animals near a residential subdivision.

“If I lived in a subdivision and someone came in and said, ‘I want to have a farm here,’ that would really bother me,” Wagner said. “Would you want cows in your back yard?”

Stinson who asked his colleagues their opinions said he wondered “what other option is there for this property.”

“It sat vacant during the housing boom and no developer was interested in it,” Stinson said. Childress stated he acquired the property a few years ago through the County tax sale.

No other Council member gave comments other than Ross LeBleu seconding Wagner’s motion which was later rescinded.

Brian Finley joins Council

Tuesday’s Council meeting was the first for member Brian Finley who replaces the Town’s 5th Ward representative Tim Conroy. Conroy resigned his seat on Oct. 7 after selling his home in his district and being unable to find another residence there.

Finley was elected by a Republican caucus on Thursday, Nov. 3. This is his first time on the Council and he is not currently serving on any other Town boards.

Finley is the only Republican on the currently Council.

LeBleu said he welcomes Finley and looks forward to working with him.



Posted 11/16/2016




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