The ordinance for
the Springdale planned unit development--located immediately south of 1050N
and immediately west of Abercrombie Woods--provides for 23 paired patio
homes, 22 of which, so it turns out, are absolutely unbuildable under the
terms of the ordinance itself.
As Ed Recktenwall,
land development manager for Olthof Homes LLC, told the Chesterton Advisory
Plan Commission at its meeting Thursday evening, due to Olthof’s small but
significant miscalculation of impervious surface, total lot coverages which
should have been in the range of 46 to 51 percent are “coming in at 55
That mistake was
discovered, Recktenwell said, when Olthof began, earlier this summer, to
seek building permits for some of the paired patio homes. Olthof, he
explained, had not been including in the lot-coverage calculations such
impervious surfaces as sunrooms and patios, but only the footprints of the
paired patio homes themselves.
approved by the Town Council, the Springdale PUD ordinance already grants a
substantial lot-coverage variance for the paired patio homes: from a maximum
of 30 percent, as stipulated by the Zoning Ordinance (40 percent for corner
lots), to as much as 50.9 percent.
So planners were
taken aback on Thursday when Recktenwall requested an amendment to the PUD
ordinance which would increase to 55 percent the permitted lot coverage for
the 22 lots in question.
They were taken
aback even more, however, when Recktenwall requested an additional
amendment: this one to increase lot coverage from 30 percent to 35 percent
for the 23 single-family homes to be built just east of the paired patio
homes in the middle of the site. Recktenwall told planners that Olthof has
already sold nine lots and that one of the buyers is interested in a larger
patio and a side-entrance garage, which would increase lot coverage and
hence impervious surface. That buyer, Recktenwall emphasized, is the only
one of the nine so far seeking a larger patio and side-entrance garage. Even
so, he said, “We don’t want to put limits on a customer’s choice. We would
like to be able to offer these options to other buyers.”
So let’s summarize:
Olthof may not, as matters stand now, build any of those 22 paired patio
homes because the total lot coverage of each--that is to say, the impervious
surface--would be in outright violation of the previously approved PUD
ordinance; and Olthof also wants the option of increasing the impervious
surface on the adjacent 23 single-family lots.
As far as planner
Sharon Darnell is concerned, that dog won’t hunt. “The paired patio homes
don’t fit?” she echoed Recktenwall. “Don’t you think you guys should’ve
figured this out before, insteading of putting us on the spot? Have you
talked to your single-family client about the requirements of the town?”
“I have not,”
“What are you going
to do when someone wants to build a swimming pool?” planner Jim Kowalski
“They’d have to
build on a bigger lot or come back here and try for a variance,” Recktenwall
this board in a tough situation,” Kowalski responded. “I mean, this blows my
mind. Why not change your product a little bit?”
“That would be very
difficult at this point,” Recktenwall said.
“So we do all this
so it’s easier for you?” Kowalski pressed.
“That’s a fair
question,” Recktenwall conceded. “The impervious area is a little difficult
to understand. We built in Morgan’s Corner and we didn’t run into any issues
out there. I’m not trying to put the board in a tough position.”
“You guys have been
doing this a long time,” Kowalski noted. “You mean you didn’t figure this
in? Are the lights on but nobody’s home? It gets a little ridiculous to us,
when you try to put 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag.”
“What’s Plan B if
this board doesn’t grant the petition?” planner Dan Marchetti wanted to
“We don’t have
one,” Recktenwall said. “We’d have to go back and figure it out.”
“Has this ever
happened before? Marchetti wondered.
“This would be a
first,” Recktenwell said.
As the residents of
Abercrombie Woods to the immediate east know, the real issue isn’t how much
lot coverage there is per se. Rather, it’s how much impervious surface is
precluding effective drainage. Because extreme Southwest Chesterton is
historically a pretty wet place with a pretty high water table. Which
prompted Kowalski to ask Town Engineer Mark O’Dell about the stormwater
system installed at Springdale.
Every paired patio
home has a sump pump, 90 percent of those sump pumps are directed to rear
yards, and every other rear yard has a drain, O’Dell said. It would be easy
enough, he suggested, for Olthof to add a rear-yard drain for every lot. But
O’Dell wanted to make one thing very clear: the lot coverage for the
single-family homes to be built on the far eastern edge of
Springdale--Abercrombie Wood’s far western edge--should under no
circumstances be increased beyond the maximum 30 percent permitted by the
PUD. “The neighbors in Abercrombie all got 30 percent,” he said. “So you
don’t want to change those Springdale lots on the east side.”
Darnell, who lives
just down 1050N from Springdale, wasn’t ready to abandon the issue of
drainage, noting that Olthof spent much of last fall and this past winter
de-watering the site. “I live in this area and when it rains I know what
happens,” she said. “We’ve gone through this water problem before in this
Hammar, for her part, actually lives in an Olthof home, in Morgan’s Corner,
and she has reason to doubt Olthof’s dedication to proper drainage. “The
drainage in the backyards is deplorable,” she said. “They’re just pooling
with water, with how you guys sloped the yards. You tried to fix the problem
with a French drain but you put it at a higher spot than the lowest area.
There are bugs and it stinks and it’s not pleasant.”
Planner Jeff Trout
wondered whether Olthof could mitigate the proposed increase in impervious
surface by increasing green space in the overall development by the
equivalent area of 11,500 feet.
Yes, O’Dell said.
Olthof could increase the size of the detention pond. “There’s a cost to
that but that would be a way to mitigate it.”
“You’d be asking
for additional commitments,” Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson warned
Planner Fred Owens,
for his part, suggested replatting lots 61-70 five feet to the west, thereby
increasing those lots’ square footage and commensurately reducing lot
coverage. “It’s just lines on a page right now,” he said. “It would be
In the end,
Recktenwall was prepared to abandon the second proposed amendment, the one
which would increase maximum lot coverage for the 23 single-family homes to
35 percent. “We’re willing to back off the single-family homes,” he said.
“We can go to the client and tell them to pick a different lot.” But Olthof
will still need either to persuade the Plan Commission to amend the maximum
lot coverage for the 22 paired patio homes or else find a more radical
solution to the problem of its own causing.
unwilling to decide anything on Thursday, voting unanimously to continue the
preliminary hearing to their next meeting, Oct. 15.