Chesterton Tribune



Porter BZA: Hearing set on unit size variance; rule to be reconsidered

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The Porter Board of Zoning Appeals conducted a preliminary hearing for a variance related to unit size at its meeting Wednesday night.

Dane Jackson petitioned to get a public hearing related to the development of senior living housing at 6 Franklin Street. Jackson said he will seek a developmental standards variance to waive the minimum square footage required for housing units on the property zoned two-family residential.

Jackson said he plans to divide the house at 6 Franklin into a duplex with a one-bedroom unit and a two-bedroom unit. There are two vacant lots on the property behind the house where he plans to construct two fourplexes with one-bedroom units.

The new housing is intended as small units that provide affordable living for seniors, Jackson said, noting that rising cost of living makes it hard for seniors on fixed incomes to get by. “Having to buy food and medication and trying to get by, it’s really tough. I’m trying to do something to help them out by having an affordable unit that is also very nice.” He added that he plans to include all utilities in the price of rent.

Building Commissioner Michael Barry reported that units in two-family residential zones must be no smaller than 1,000 square feet, according to Porter Town code. Jackson would like a variance allowing his units be as small as 472 square feet. Town Planner Jim Mandon commented that the variances should be awarded in two steps, since Jackson will be constructing a two-bedroom unit, and 472 square feet is too small for that use. Jackson responded that the two-bedroom is planned to be 810 square feet.

The Board agreed the wording of the variance would be changed to reflect that the two-bedroom can be no smaller than 810 square feet and voted unanimously to set the matter for public hearing at the next meeting, June 20.

Jackson is simultaneously seeking approval from the Plan Commission to rezone the property, which is currently zoned medium-density residential. His need for the variance is contingent upon the Plan Commission’s decision on the rezone.

Variances of this nature are common, as was noted at the Plan Commission meeting earlier Wednesday, because Town code was altered to raise the minimum square footage requirement several years back. The result, according to Barry, is that many houses in town don’t meet the new requirements and many open lots in Town do not have sufficient space for someone to build a new house, considering yard setback along with unit size. It is also an issue that will continue to come up with petitions like Jackson’s.

Barry told the Plan Commission only 10 new houses went up in Porter last year compared to hundreds of new houses in Chesterton. The reason may be that prospective Porterites have to jump through more hoops or agree to build more house than they want to get a building permit. “We’re asking people to either build a larger house on a smaller lot that doesn’t fit the character, or we’re asking them to go somewhere else,” Barry told the Plan Commission, noting that people can go over to Chesterton or Burns Harbor and build without the extra complications.

The Plan Commission voted to have Mandon and Barry examine the zoning ordinance and come back with recommendations for changing the square footage and setback requirements.


Posted 5/17/2018




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