The Porter Plan
Commission decided at its meeting last night that it will hold a public
hearing on a proposal to reduce Porter’s minimum floor area requirements for
The Planners had a
lengthy discussion at their last meeting and decided to take a month to
review proposals for reducing the minimum floor area required in Town Code
from Town Planner Jim Mandon and Building Commissioner Michael Barry.
Barry’s proposal allowed for smaller homes than Mandon’s.
Per Porter Town
Code last updated in 2003, a single-family home on land zoned R-1
(single-family residential, large lot) must be a minimum of 1,500 square
feet for a one-story, 2,000 square feet for a two-story, and 1,800 square
feet for a bi or tri-level. There are similar restrictions on multi-family
units and for each zoning type.
Under Barry’s plan,
a one-story in R-1 would have to be at least 1,200 square feet. Two-story
homes would have to be at least 1,600 square feet, and bi and tri-levels
would have to be at least 1,400 square feet. On lots zoned R-2
(single-family residential, small lot) and in R-3 and R-4 multi-family
zonings, Barry proposed the smallest allowable units should be 1,000 square
feet, down from 1,200.
Mandon and Barry
were on the same page about R-3 and R-4, multi-family residential, zones,
and differed slightly on R-2 requirements.
In some cases,
Mandon recommended the total minimum area shouldn’t be changed, such as for
one-story homes in R-1. Under his plan, two-story homes would have to be at
least 1,800 square feet and bi and tri-levels would have to be at least
1,500 square feet.
Barry said Porter’s
minimum floor area requirements were changed in 2003 to require larger homes
after the 1991 version of the code, that allowed smaller builds, fell out of
favor. His proposal is intended to meet in the middle of the 1991 and 2003
Mandon said he
proposed some larger numbers in his plan as a compromise in case the Plan
Commission wasn’t in favor of Barry’s changes. He doesn’t disagree with
Mandon said, for
his part, a larger house doesn’t mean a higher-end house. “When people are
entering the housing market, they’re on a budget,” Mandon said. “If you have
a certain number of dollars to work with, you’re spreading those dollars
across more square feet, and you can end up with a cheaper product.”
Barry said his
motivation for bringing the issue before the Planners was to make it easier
for people to build on the remaining vacant lots in Town. Barry reported he
commonly gets calls from people wanting to build houses 1,200 or 1,300
They’re turned off
when they find out Town Code doesn’t allow it, and they’d have to get a
variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals. “Most people walk away when they
find out they have to go to two months of meetings and spend several hundred
dollars,” Barry said.
Barry said the
proposal wouldn’t change the character of the Town, since there are few
places left to build in Porter. Plenty of homes under 1,500 square feet also
already exist, including most of the houses on 23rd Street, the new Summer
Tree condos, and the new subdivision at Mineral Springs Road and W. Beam
Street, where 1,200 square foot houses were allowed as part of a Planned
Unit Development (PUD).
According to Barry,
there are about 30 vacant lots left in Town, some of which were platted for
a small structure at only 40 feet wide, and no land left for new
subdivisions. “The lots we have left don’t support 2,000 and 1,500 square
Barry asked, “Every
single subdivision we’ve approved has varied from our standards somehow. I
can’t tell you one that hasn’t gotten a variance. What’s the point of having
standards if you don’t follow them?”
He added, "If
people walk away from the Town’s current standards, why not give them
something they can work with?”
Mandon agreed the
Code should be changed when the BZA is so often hearing, and granting,
requests for variances on minimum floor area.
Board President Jim
Eriksson recalled the Plan Commission had its reasons in the past for being
against smaller houses, but offered, “I don’t want to hurt somebody first
starting out, because that’s where I started.”
“I never thought
about the people that would say ‘heck with it, I’m going to Chesterton,’”
Madigan said she preferred Barry’s proposal to Mandon’s. “I think people
should be able to build as small as they want,” Madigan said. “I want the
empty lots in our neighborhood developed.”
Member Tara Duffie
concurred, going back to cost. “As far as I can tell the price of lumber and
labor is way up, so I think we need to consider that.”
Barry said homes
with a smaller footprint are going for just under $200,000, which is
attractive to buyers right now.
The members voted,
with Eriksson dissenting, to direct Barry and Mandon to finalize the
proposal. Residents will be able to weigh-in at a future public hearing.
Then, the Plan Commission will make a recommendation to the Town Council,
which has the final say.