Chesterton Tribune



Porter planners to hold public hearing on minimum square footage ordinance

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The Porter Plan Commission will hold a public hearing at its meeting Wednesday, July 17 to gather input on proposed changes to minimum square footage guidelines outlined in Town code.

Town Planner Jim Mandon and Building Commissioner Michael Barry have worked together to recommend new minimum square footage requirements for the Town of Porter, since the current guidelines make building difficult and, as Mandon says, more house doesn’t always equal better quality.

Mandon has also said the Town should consider changing its Code when the Board of Zoning Appeals is so often hearing, and granting, requests for variances on minimum floor area. The BZA has had several such requests in the past year, and the issue has come up at several Plan Commission meetings in the last year.

Per Porter Town Code last updated in 2003, a single-family home on land zoned R-1 (single-family residential, large lot) must be a minimum of 1,500 square feet for a one-story, 2,000 square feet for a two-story, and 1,800 square feet for a bi or tri-level. There are similar restrictions on multi-family units and for each zoning type.

Barry has proposed changing the requirements to allow houses as small as 1,200 square feet in R-1 zones, which he says matches the character of much of the existing development in Town, since smaller homes were allowed prior to 2003.

Under Barry’s plan, a one-story in R-1 would have to be at least 1,200 square feet. Two-story homes would have to be at least 1,600 square feet, and bi and tri-levels would have to be at least 1,400 square feet. On lots zoned R-2 (single-family residential, small lot) and in R-3 and R-4 multi-family zonings, Barry proposed the smallest allowable units should be 1,000 square feet, down from 1,200.

Barry and Mandon first proposed changing the ordinance in April. Barry’s reasoning: to make it easier for people to build on the remaining lots in Town. Barry said he often gets calls from people wanting to build houses 1,200 or 1,300 square feet, and they’re often turned off when they find out they’d have to get a variance from the BZA.

The public can weigh in on the proposed changes at the Plan Commission’s next meeting at the Town Hall, on Wednesday July 17 at 5:30 p.m.

After the public hearing, the Planners will vote to make a recommendation to the Town Council, who must give final approval for changes to Town Code.

Other recent business

In addition to setting that public hearing, the Board approved a minor subdivision on Waverly Road and conducted a preliminary hearing on the Summer Tree PUD at its last meeting.

The commission approved Dean and Margaret Hultman’s request to subdivide their five-acre property at 808 Waverly Road into three lots for single-family homes. The property is zoned R-1. Lot 1 will be 1.21 acres, Lot 2 will be 1.01 acres, and Lot 3 will be 2.48 acres.

Babcock said the new lots will be served by private sewer lines the Hultman’s will have installed and connected to the Town’s sewers with a low-pressure pump. Lots 1 and 2 will share a driveway, and a driveway maintenance agreement will be recorded with the Plat so future owners know their obligations.

The lots are already served by utilities, and Babcock said no public improvements are required. He only asked that the Board waive the maximum depth requirement for the third lot, where the lot depth is planned to be 327 feet, though Town code allows for a maximum of 300 feet.

Two members of the public had concerns about the proposal in a public hearing. First was Diane Mrak, who wondered if development on the new subdivision would increase traffic, how it could affect drainage in the surrounding neighborhood, and how many trees would be torn out. Laura Schroeder similarly said she was worried about her property value if the Hultman’s cut down all the trees on their property, which is heavily wooded.

Babcock said on rebuttal that a few single-family houses won’t significantly increase traffic and that the site plan and private sewer placement were well-thought out to reduce the chance of causing drainage issues. He also assured that having well-established trees improves resale value, so as many trees as possible would be kept on the property.

Mandon reported all Department heads had reviewed and approved of the plats. Barry said the Town did a lot of negotiating to make sure the plan had little impact on the neighborhood. He said the Hultman’s were especially considerate about drainage and the placement of the driveway. “They’ve been very cognizant of how this impacts those around them,” Barry said. “In other subdivisions, there’s a lot of impact to the neighbors. I don’t think this is going to have much impact other than there will be a few more houses on it.”

The Board opted to approve both the primary and secondary plats for the subdivision, including waiving maximum lot depth for the third lot, on the condition that the driveway maintenance agreement be on file with the Town.

In the preliminary hearing, Matt Keiser, on behalf of Fox Chase Development, petitioned to amend the planned unit development (PUD) to rezone the land on the north side of the entrance to the Summer Tree development at the corner of U.S. 20 and Waverly Road from commercial to residential.

Keiser said the developer has had trouble selling the large swath of commercial property, and wants to subdivide that lot into five parcels: four will be homes, and one will stay commercial.

An amended PUD will be presented and the Board will hold a public hearing on the matter at the July meeting.


Posted 7/11/2019




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