The county could be getting new regulations on stormwater standards,
property maintenance, LED signage and commercial composting sites as all
four subjects met favorable review by the plan commission on Wednesday.
The board since November has been screening plans to amend the county’s
Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) and passing them to the county
commissioners who have final word over changes to the ordinance.
Suggestions made at the January meeting by county planners Sylvia Graham and
Herb Read regarding the stormwater amendments are now included in the latest
draft by plan commission staff and consultants DLZ Indiana.
Read along with Graham had requested the amendments include language stating
that a developer would not be allowed to drain water on to a neighboring
property without permission. The proposed measure would also call for the
developer to reduce runoff by 20 percent.
“It’s a special protection for residents in Porter County and we’ve had
instances where this was done,” said Read.
More items brought into the amendments stemming from other suggestions made
by county planners include definitions of elevation and grading,
requirements for retention ponds and recognition of natural areas and
The amendments would pertain primarily to smaller developments and minor
subdivisions which before had to be heard by county Board of Zoning Appeals
to get a variance.
County planner and Surveyor Kevin Breitzke advocated the county watch out
for developers who could fill in bioswales or place blockage in drainage
ways. He also recommended the county update its topographical maps every
five to ten years to show evidence of where the landscape is changing.
“Every time we amend these, it’s a positive thing,” Breitzke said.
Board President and County Commissioner Nancy Adams thanked her peers for
the suggestions. “We’re always going to have drainage problems but we need
to take this first step,” she said.
The board also favored 7-0 a measure giving more leverage to the plan
commission in enforcing property maintenance in hazardous areas.
“It’s giving us a hammer to go out and enforce these (requirements),” said
Bob Thompson, executive director of the count plan commission.
Bob Thompson said phone calls have been made to his office asking to check
into neglected properties where things like “trees growing up through
gutters” are seen. He said he hopes to establish a code of enforcement but
in order to do so, the proper wording must be “without question” in the UDO.
County planner Richard Maxey said the measure should have “teeth” in the
form of hefty fines so that the county can remove hazards for the protection
of residents, especially children. He mentioned one property in Liberty
Township east of the elementary school with a dangerous building that could
be knocked over by a storm. He mentioned another property in the Town of
Chesterton where it took more than a year for someone to remove a problem
Board attorney Scott McClure said fines collected would go into the plan
commission’s budget which is separate from the county’s General Fund. He
said the goal ultimately would be to get more properties to comply with the
commission. Many of them already do, he said, but there are those
“one-percenters” who simply do not want to fix the issue regardless of any
penal action against them.
Thompson said any board member who sees a property they think is hazardous
should contact him.
Read said he had no hang-ups about the proposal as long as the staff employs
a common sense approach, determining what objects are junk and whether it’s
the fault of the property owner or trespassers dumping materials.
In a response to issues raised last year over the Duneland 28 commercial
composting site in Union Twp., Thompson said the county attorney asked the
plan commission to be proactive in setting its own regulation standards for
future commercial compost sites.
Compost sites are required to follow regulations set statewide by the
Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). The agency will still
control the facilities to a large degree but Thompson said it would be good
for the county to have its own rules to refer to. Guidelines will require
sites to include a management plan for controlling odors, setting hours of
operation and creating an organic product available for the public to use.
A set of amendments was passed 7-0.
Commercial compost facilities in the county are permitted only in
Industrial-zoned districts and would require a rezoning if developers wish
to locate elsewhere.
In a fourth measure, Thompson brought back an amendment for billboard
signage at the suggestion of the commissioners. The plan commission in
November favored the idea of allowing billboards with LED lights in an
industrial-zoned area as long as the firm agrees to remove four regular
The amendment was brought back to include High-Intensity Commercial (CH)
districts and to increase the signs to a maximum of 400 square-feet on
divided highways like I-80/94. The UDO will ask that four panels are removed
rather than the billboard structure.
The commission voted 7-0 once again on the measure and it will now go before
the commissioners at a later date.
Thompson said there will be at least two more sets of amendments for
planners to review. One will address landscaping issues while the other will
have to do with inspections.
Adams said she believes much will be accomplished with the additions to the
UDO and they will make the document easier to navigate. The changes will
also help developments move more quickly through the planning process with
guidance from a development review committee, she said.