The Porter Plan
Commission voted 4-2 at its meeting last night to recommend that the Town
Council approve changes to Town Code that reduce minimum square footage
requirements for new homes constructed in Porter.
Wagner, Jay Craig, Tara Duffie, and David Phillips voted yes. Planner Laura
Madigan was absent.
With the changes, a
single-family home on land zoned R-1 (single-family residential, large lot)
would have to be at least 1,200 square feet. Two-storys 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. The smallest allowed residences would be 600-square-foot
apartments in R-4, which allows multi-family buildings for five or more
The current code,
which dates to 2003, requires single-family homes in R-1 be at least 1,500
square feet for a one-story and 2,000 square feet for a two story, and the
smallest allowed units are 750-square-foot apartments in R-4.
Commissioner Michael Barry and Town Planner Jim Mandon proposed the changes
because the 1,500-square-foot minimum dissuades people from building in
Porter and makes building a house that conforms to other requirements, such
as maximum lot coverage and yard setback, on small lots difficult.
The changes also
allow a Porter property owner whose house doesn’t meet the current standard
to rebuild the house to its original specifications in case it is destroyed.
Currently, someone who has lost their 1,200-square-foot home to a fire, for
example, would need a variance from the BZA just to rebuild what was. The
Planners have agreed at several meetings that this constitutes an undue
President Jim Eriksson and Planner Jamie Spanier voted against the changes,
citing concerns about the smallest allowed units and how Porter compares
with nearby Towns.
“It’s been brought
up that there’s not a lot of vacant land, but my understanding is that
there’s 50 acres behind Orchard Apartments,” Eriksson said, further voicing
concern that a development of small houses could crop up in Town, and he had
“a bad feeling” about the changes.
“What I see going
up in Burns Harbor and Chesterton, those are not small houses,” Eriksson
said. “The apartments are 1,100 or 1,200 square feet, and they’re filling
them at $1,800. It almost seems to me that you can go to Porter if you can’t
afford Burns Harbor or Chesterton,” he added.
Planner Tara Duffie
noted that the new ordinance would help at least two property owners in her
neighborhood, who own vacant lots and can’t build due to the square footage
rules. “They’d have to build smaller because the lots are smaller,” Duffie
said. “Both of them are retired, I think, and they came to Porter not
because it’s less expensive, but because it’s closer to the beach.”
Spanier said he
agreed with the nonconforming structures portion of the ordinance but had
reservations about allowing apartments as small as 600 square feet in R-4.
No members of the
public spoke against the ordinance in a public hearing. Porter resident
Jennifer Klug spoke in favor of both the nonconforming structures element
and allowing smaller homes, saying, “I think it’s important to let people
use and rebuild on their property” and “bigger doesn’t always attract better
“I hope that it
gets passed by the Town Council,” Klug added.
In other business,
the Planners voted to table a request by Fox Chase Development for a third
replat of the Summer Tree development. Fox Chase sent correspondence asking
for a continuance for more time to get paperwork in order.
Philips to be the Plan Commission representative on the BZA.
Mandon reported on
his progress proposing changes to the way use variances are described in
Town Code. The Code currently has a standalone, out-dated, and incomplete
list of ‘allowed uses’ for property in Town.
sorting the uses, so each item on the list is allowed in a certain zone or
multiple zones that match the use. This way, people seeking to use land in a
certain way won’t need a use variance from the BZA unless they have a unique
request. Mandon says this change would take away a layer of complication in
the use variance process, so the BZA would decide on allowing variances
solely based on whether or not requests meet all of the five criteria set
forth in Indiana Law.