Chesterton Tribune

Porter BZA petitioner hearings postponed for paperwork and notice deficiencies

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By PAULENE POPARAD

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 operation.

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.

 

Posted 6/21/2012