For petitioners, and at least one board member, Wednesday’s Porter Board of
Zoning Appeals meeting was an exercise in frustration.
Both petitioners slated for public hearings failed to have either hearing
convened due to paperwork and notification snafus.
For Tom Tarpley and John Ayala, that means they’ll have to come back a
fourth time seeking a hearing on their request for a use variance to locate
two residential apartments on the ground floor at 200 S. Franklin St., and
on a separate variance to allow only four on-site parking spaces. Town code
requires eight spaces.
BZA member Lorain Bell voted no on the successful motion to reschedule the
Tarpley/Ayala hearing to July 18. After the meeting he said, “These people
have been in here a third or fourth time. Is it their fault? I don’t know.”
During the meeting he said the BZA doesn’t appear to be running a good
The public hearing on a second petition brought by James and Heidi Gilliam
was postponed until July 18 because they did not arrange for their legal
notice to be published at least 10 days prior to the meeting as state law
requires, and there was a question whether all contiguous property owners
were notified by certified mail.
The Gilliams are seeking a variance from the rear-yard setback on Lot 14 of
Wagner Hills subdivision to build a 2,695 square-foot home.
When it was decided the Gilliam public hearing would not take place, several
persons in the audience left the meeting. Paul Childress told the BZA he
came to speak but won’t be available July 18. He was told to submit his
comments in writing.
Heidi Gilliam said she had problems in part because people kept giving them
different directions regarding the petition process. When told some of his
paperwork wasn’t correct, Ayala said, “I’m getting a little defensive
because this is what the town gave me. I’m a little upset here.”
President John Kremke said the board is trying to run a cleaner meeting and
staff are working on a proposed change to help petitioners. It would have
town hall staff, not the Porter County Assessor, provide the names of
contiguous property owners.
Town planner Jim Mandon said citizens rarely bring zoning petitions in their
lives and it can be intimidating. “It’s very important people get the right
information and the application they need.”
He said in previous years he reviewed applications before they got to the
BZA, but that practice was discontinued to save money.
“I don’t believe it’s your responsibility to follow up on this,” BZA member
Bill Sexton told Mandon. “It’s (the petitioner’s) responsibility to follow
up with you.” Sexton said it’s up to the Town Council whether it wants
Mandon to run up more billable hours.
Kremke said he will get the matter on the Town Council agenda and attend.
In other BZA action, members voted 5-0 to adopt required findings of fact
with four conditions supporting their June 6 approval of twin use variances
to allow Seven Peaks Marketing LC to operate a waterpark at the former
Splash Down Dunes, and to continue to use a separate parcel west of Waverly
Road for parking.
Both approvals were needed before the waterpark sale could be finalized.
The Porter Plan Commission convened its meeting at 7:25 p.m. following the
BZA. Approved was the only petition before it, a replat of Johnson
Subdivision for Pamela and Eugene Engels. No one commented during a public
hearing, which was postponed from last month pending renotification of
contiguous property owners.
The Engelses plan to combine a second lot they purchased behind their 935
Park Ave. home into one lot of record.
The couple had deeds and a plat of the lots but not a survey, which Pamela
Engels said is being done. The 7-0 motion granting approval stipulated that
Mandon review the survey, or a submitted mylar for recording, before town
officials sign the mylar.