Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Porter County new zoning map up for review this Thursday

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By VICKI URBANIK

As Valerie Drummond sees it, Porter County’s new zoning maps put the rural character of Liberty Township at risk.

“We moved to Liberty Township specifically because we wanted the rural environment and atmosphere,” she said. The zoning map “destroys the reason many of us moved to this area.”

Drummond and other Liberty Township residents are gearing up for a special meeting this Thursday, when the Porter County Plan Commission will once again consider the new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which represents the first major update since 1983 of all the county’s zoning, subdivision and zoning ordinances.

At the last UDO meeting, the plan commission members got their first look at the associated new zoning map, which assigns the new zoning categories to actual property.

On that map, much of Liberty Township is awash in yellow -- zoned either Rural-Residential (RR) or Low Density Single-family Residential (R-1) -- which has led Drummond and her Liberty Township neighbors to question the future of farming in their community. Farming isn’t listed as one of the permitted uses in either the RR or R-1 zones.

“Could it be that the ‘county fathers’ are sacrificing our farmers and way of life to develop subdivisions to support the Illinois overflow? It certainly appears that way,” Drummond wrote in a statement. “It would certainly seem that we are making the terrible sacrifice of our friends and neighbors toward someone else’s idea of progress.”

Porter County Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson attempted to calm the fears. He noted that Liberty Township has long been zoned residential, with very little agricultural zoning. If someone is farming on residentially zoned land, they will be able to keep doing so, he said, adding that he will seek language in the final UDO to make that clear.

“In my opinion, they can keep farming. We’re not going to shut them down,” he said.

The Liberty Township residents aren’t the only ones with concerns or questions about the UDO -- and not everyone else takes the same view.

The Porter County Builders Association had a meeting scheduled with Thompson this morning to review their concerns. PCBA members have said the new ordinance is overly restrictive, citing, among other things, a prohibition on future mixed-used developments known as planned unit developments.

Similarly, Ned Kovachevich, a Porter County property owner and director of the Lake County Planning Commission, wrote a letter to plan commission members raising a concern that R-1 zones must be connected to sanitary sewers. Kovachevich noted that many areas with the R-1 zoning do not have sanity sewers available now or in the foreseeable future.

“This change of development standard will effectively stop development in R-1 designated areas,” he wrote.

Recently, however, Thompson proposed allowing R-1 zones to be developed with septic systems if sanitary sewers were not feasible.

Another concern about the zoning has been raised by the Porter County Farm Bureau, which recently held a meeting with farm owners to discuss changing their zoning from General Agriculture to the more restrictive Prime Agriculture zone.

Drummond, who isn’t a farmer, said she’s worried about her friends and neighbors, some of whom have been farming Liberty Township land for generations. With encroaching residential development, she said property owners might feel they’re being forced to sell.

“I’m upset for the future of the northern most townships,” she said.

The Porter County Plan Commission’s special meeting will be Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the County Administration Center, Valparaiso. The UDO, and the zoning map, are available on line at www.porterco.org

The plan commission will only make a recommendation on the UDO and the map, and the Porter County Commissioners will have the final say.

 

Posted 3/5/2007

 

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