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