This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

BZA, Planning, and the UDO

The Board of Zoning Appeals met for an unexpectedly long meeting on Monday night. There was only one item on the agenda, a request for a variance. A man living north of Wheatfield would like to become a gunsmith and has been getting the necessary paper work done with the ATF. ATF told him to be sure he had the proper county zoning, which is why he made the request for a variance. He lives north of Wheatfield in an area zoned A1 (general agriculture). The property he owns was in the past used for commercial purposes, with auctions held there and some kind of retail store, but that was apparently before zoning. He does not want to pay the costs of gunsmith classes if he cannot have a business when classes are finished.

The discussion of his request took almost an hour. One issue was whether he would do retail sales. His request for a Type 3 business does not allow retail sales, though it seems that the purpose of that prohibition is traffic control. Neighbors had sent a letter saying that they had no objections as long as he did not have ammunition on site and there was no gunfire. The applicant said he was not applying for an ammunition license and that he would test guns at the Jasper Pulaski firing range. He request was finally approved.

Following that meeting the Planning Board met to discuss changes to the County's Unified Development Ordinance. This meeting continued the discussion from the November meeting. Some changes that had been made were reducing the minimum size of a residence on A1, A2, and R1 zones from 1200 square feet to 1000 square feet. There are people who want to build small houses in the country and several have had to redo plans to make their home bigger than they wanted. The set-backs from the property line are currently 30 feet for a residence and 12 feet for an auxiliary structure. That was changed to 12 feet for both. Pond setbacks on land that is adjacent to agricultural land were increased to 200 feet to avoid contamination of the ponds from agriculture practices. There were a few other changes. In discussion with a member of the audience, two different views of the UDO were expressed. One view is that the UDO contains the rules and the rules are to be applied as in the book with minimum judgement allowed. The other is that the UDO is more a set of guidelines and that when judgement says the guidelines do not make sense or are injurious, they should be suspended.

The current draft, Draft 3, was approved, which means that the next step will be a public hearing. There should be a newspaper notice in the next few weeks. The public hearing will be held at the next Planning Board meeting, scheduled for Feb 22 at 7:00 pm in the Commissioners Room of the Court House. Copies of the draft will be available from the Planning Office, which is on the first floor of the Court House. I am hoping that the draft will also be put on line.

In other news, one of the people who is a regular at these meetings pointed me to an article from the Northwest Indiana Times about a lawsuit that had been filed against the Jasper County Sheriff. The suit stemmed from an assault on a prisoner by another prisoner in February of 2013. A settlement had been reached and the suit was therefore dismissed.

I missed the #dogslivesmatter march in Rensselaer but the Republican carried a long article about it.

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