Chesterton Tribune



Porter Town Council votes 3-2 to reject rezoning for Childress farm

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Paul Childress’ request to rezone approximately 15 acres of residential land to open space for the purposes of operating a family foundation farm at 1035 Wagner Rd. was defeated by a small majority of Porter Town Council members on Tuesday.

The vote was as close as it gets, with three members voting to deny the request -- Erik Wagner, Brian Finley and Ross LeBleu -- and two members voting in favor, William Lopez and Council President Greg Stinson.

Finley had seconded Wagner’s motion to deny saying that he felt the opposition was too prevalent for him to support Childress’ petition.

“With everybody that’s against it and not enough people for it, I can’t say yes to it,” sad Finley who did laud Childress for the “really doing his homework on the plan.”

Childress first proposed the concept to the Town’s Advisory Plan Commission in July. The property was formerly a Nike missile base site, decommissioned in the 1970’s. The Childress Family Foundation planned to generate its own power and natural gas and grow plants by using methods such as hydroponics.

The plans included raising animals like poultry, rabbits and a limited number of cows, cattle and goats within a 100-foot buffer.

Childress said he would allow visitors to the farm to educate them on the self-sustaining methods he would practice.

Residents from Wagner Hills and Dunes Meadows came to Plan Commission meetings to protest having a farm operation close to them, complaining of odors, noise and traffic. Only a few neighbors spoke in support.

Stinson on Tuesday said he knows the quantity of people who gave remonstrances but he still felt there were benefits to the plan which outweighed the cons.

“I like to think of what is in the best interest of the town. I prefer to take a broader view,” he said. “I’m kind of on the opposite end.”

The site had sat “undeveloped, unused and untouched” for many years, even during the housing boom, Stinson said, and this would be a use for the land that would not cause excessive traffic like a major subdivision.

A lot of water would drain from the property onto neighbors’ if left undeveloped, Stinson said. He said before Childress, there was no one the Town could talk to about making improvements since there was no owner.

Lopez said he concurred with many of Stinson’s arguments, agreeing that the property has been an eye sore for many years, and felt that the purported objections about traffic and noise were moot points.

Wagner and LeBleu made no further statements but at last the meeting Wagner said he sympathized with the neighbors in that he wouldn’t want to have a farm next to him either.

Fees and salary ordinances

Meanwhile, the Council did approve a total of three ordinances.

In old business, second readings were approved to raise the stormwater management user fee from $4 to $6 per month for each residential unit. The increase will take effect in January. The increased fees will boost funds for engineering and drainage remedy projects undertaken by the Stormwater Manager Board.

Also, the Council approved an ordinance to recognize the fees set by Republic Services for trash pickup for the next two years. The fees are collected by the Town and are passed on to Republic Services which sets the rate.

The rate for 2017 will be $14.98 per month and the 2018 monthly rate will be $15.58, the ordinance states.

The Council voted on first reading and suspended the rules to hold a second reading on the Town’s employee salary ordinance for 2017. Stinson said he hates having to suspend the rules on an ordinance but the matter is time sensitive since it is part of the Town’s overall budget sent to the state.

The ordinance lists minimum and maximum salaries for full-time employees, hourly rates and compensation for appointments on Town boards. The employee with the highest salary is Police Chief Jamie Spanier at $61,295. Council members receive $4,000 per year. Per meeting Plan Commission members receive $109, Redevelopment Commission members receive $100, BZA members receive $60 per meeting and Stormwater Management Board members receive $53.

Longevity pay is included in the ordinance and full-time employees and elected officials are entitled to participate in the Town’s employee health insurance plan.

In resolutions, the Council voted in favor of adopting a Title VI non-discrimination plan. Stinson said the plan is required in order to receive federal funding. The plan ensures that no person is excluded from participating in or can be denied benefits of any program or activity.



Posted 12/14/2016









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