Three new amendments to Porter County’s development plans are one step away
from officially becoming part of the county Unified Development Ordinance.
Porter County Commissioners John Evans, R-North, Nancy Adams, R-Center, and
Carole Knoblock, D-South, unanimously approved measures that would expand
the way county planners review small developments and minor subdivisions
during a first reading at the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday.
One amendment would include a clause to help define the difference between
major, minor and administrative subdividing. Subdivisions with less than
five lots would be considered minor while administrative division would
apply to cases in A1 and RR zoning districts where the property is split
into ten acres or more. The former will be reviewed by a plat review
committee and the latter solely by the Plan Commission Executive Director
Properties would be allowed to split one time only if it hasn’t already been
split since 1994, regardless of ownership changes. Rules for major
subdivision would remain as they are in the current UDO.
Another amendment would allow large parcels to be PUDs, or Planned Unit
Developments, which typically feature multiple zonings for various purposes.
The commissioners also agreed on a third amendment for development review
processes with the plan commission board reviewing large residential
developments that have more than 100 units, commercial and industrial
buildings that have more than 25,000 square feet, and institutional projects
more than 10 acres.
A development review committee will have authority over residential projects
5 to 100 units, new buildings in commercial and industrial zones up to
25,000 square feet and institutional projects from 5 to 10 acres. Any
project less than those standards will be handled by Thompson.
Thompson explained to the commissioners every development that came to the
plan commission had to first go to the county Board of Zoning Appeals to get
variances. Over 80 variances have been granted since the current UDO was
enacted in 2008 and the plan commission formed a group to study what was
working in the UDO to adjust the code to fit smaller developments.
“The BZA is essentially rewriting our code,” said Thompson. “What we wanted
to do was figure out how to change this.”
A fourth amendment was however pulled from the commissioners’ agenda by
Thompson – an amendment to the UDO’s code regarding signage.
County planners favored an amendment allowing LED signs to be placed in
Industrial zoned districts. According to the proposed amendments, signs
could be put up if a company agrees to take down four regular billboards
from county property.
Thompson however said he wanted the amendment to specify where the LED sign
could be placed and may be acceptable in High-Intensity Commercial areas. He
said he also wanted to specify how big the sign could be and suggested areas
along divided highways and interstates could be larger due to a higher speed
The signs, he said, could be allowable up to 400 square feet.
The amendment will go back to the plan commission for revisions. Planners
are also looking to review amendments for stormwater standards and property
maintenance at their meeting in February.
In another matter, Thompson said the county needs to check that county
venues are compliant with the guidelines set forth by the Americans with
Disabilities Act. The Northwest Indiana Regional Plan Commission has
informed government units the Federal Highway Department will withhold
federal funding on roadways and bridges from those who fail to comply by the
end of this year.
The commissioners on Tuesday put together a team of various county employees
from the plan commission, highway department and GIS department to see that
the proper compliance is carried out.
Plan Commission Seat
In a separate Plan Commission matter, Evans said that planner Elizabeth
Marshal had verbally tendered her resignation to the commissioners.
Thompson said the matter was unbeknownst to him and asked if a successor
would be in place by the commission’s meeting in February. Evans said the
commissioners would meet next not on Feb. 7, but Feb. 21 where they would
announce the new member.
Board applications are available from the commissioners’ office (Room 205 of
the county administration building) and are to be submitted to the
commissioners by Friday, Feb. 10.
Encouraged to Participate in Wellness Programs
Anton Insurance representatives will increase awareness of wellness programs
available to county employees which have helped decrease the number of
claims filed that have driven up county insurance costs in recent years.
Principal Mike Anton reported 28 percent of the insurance plan’s 606
employees are taking part in the programs promoting healthier lifestyle
decisions, but a more optimal state would be nearly twice the current number
“We need to be in the 50 to 60 percent range,” Anton said.
The programs are promoted by county parks and extension offices.
Evans said more employees should take advantage of the HealthACCESS clinical
care that is available to them including free health screenings.
As for the rest of the insurance plan, more employees are being integrated
into it, at an average rate of 30 per year. Only a small percent, maybe
three or five are accounting for roughly 40 percent of the claims filed.
The agency has also found that nearly half the claims have been filed by
employees over the age of 45. The county council is expected in February to
hear the timeline of claims and discuss ways to mitigate insurance costs.
Evans and Knoblock voted to approve a series of agreements with vendors and
caterers for the county Expo Center with Adams recusing herself since one of
the businesses involved is Strongbow Inn, which she co-owns.
The commissioners also agreed to pick up a bill on upgrades to the wireless
Internet capabilities and fiber optics at the Expo Center for a total of an
additional $9,908 with provider NetNITCO. Expo Manager Brian Schafer said
vendors who set up trade shows at the Expo often need an Internet connection
to conduct business. The wireless system will pick up within the center and
some of the outdoor areas.
Mortensen CPA of Valparaiso was chosen by the commissioners at the request
of Schafer to perform bookkeeping duties since he has yet to receive
approval to hire a bookkeeper of his own to manage records between the Expo
Center and the Memorial Opera House.
Under the agreement, the group will be paid at an hourly rate of $100 per
hour in assisting the venues and not to exceed $20,000.
• The county IT department is dropping the original idea of installing
security cameras around the administration building and will have the vendor
Videotech place the equipment in the commissioner chambers only. The venture
will cost approximately $20,000. The IT department was also allowed $4,000
to replace some of their older equipment experiencing problems.
• The commissioners authorized DLZ to seek out bids to replace the security
equipment at the county juvenile center whose current system cannot be
upgraded since the parts are no longer manufactured. Bid recommendations
will be made at the Feb. 21 meeting.