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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Planning Commission meeting, July 25, 2016

The meeting of the Jasper County Planning Commission was unusually long and contentious on Monday evening. The first item on the agenda, a zoning change to allow a couple to put a second house on a rural property, passed with little discussion. Not so the second item, a request to rezone a property a few hundred yards north the intersection of SR 14 and US 231 from commercial business to agricultural. The owner had bought the property in June and intended to raise hogs on it, though it is a small, narrow lot, only 9.9 acres. The lot has a building on the west end near the highway that was for many years, and no one knew how many, used as a hog market or transfer. Since the lot had been used for hogs for many years and because it was adjacent to farm lots, the owner assumed that he could raise hogs there. He wanted to have about 180 gilts and ten boars on the property, and when the gilts had a litter, they would stay in the existing building until the piglets were weaned and sent to other farms.

However, after he purchased the property he discovered that it was zoned commercial-business. Apparently it had been zoned business in 1971 or 1972 and that designation allowed for agricultural uses.  When the zoning ordinances changed and that business zoning classification was eliminated, it was made commercial business and apparently that classification does not allow agriculture or maybe just animals.

There were a couple of people in the audience who opposed the change because they did not want hogs on the property. One member of the Commission suggested that the property should be zoned commercial because it is near the intersection of two highways and there are two or three businesses nearby. Eventually the Commission decided to delay a decision for a month to talk to their lawyer and get more info. They noted that if the land is zoned agricultural, the maximum number of pigs the owner can have on the land is 99 because there is an ordinance that say that non-confined pigs cannot exceed ten to an acre. Along with the delay in considering the matter, they gave him permission to keep pigs on the property until they decide the issue.

The third item was a proposal to change zoning of property in Wheatfield Township from residential to agricultural. The land in question was a sand ridge that had been zoned residential because someone planned a subdivision on the property and that subdivision never happened. After zoning was changed to agricultural, the owner intended to apply for a special exception from the Board of Zoning Appeals to mine the sand, that is, he proposed leveling the sand ridge and selling the sand. After the sand ridge was removed, he would farm the land. He had come to the Commission because he had moved some sand to help a neighbor and had been given a cease and desist order.

This proposed zoning change attracted a lot of opposition, with most if it centered on the archeology of the area. Much of Jasper and Newton Counties was once marsh land that teemed with wildlife. The American Indians of the area hunted the wildlife and made their settlements on the high points, the sand ridges. This is well known to those who hunt Indian artifacts. The party requesting the change had approval from the Army Corp of Engineers which protects wetlands but did not have an archeological survey which protects sites of archeological interest. A member of the audience who at one time owned the property told the Commission that the ridge was full of arrowheads and other artifacts. The Commission decided to delay decision until the September meeting, giving the petitioner time to find or do an archeological survey. (You can see the property on the Jasper County GIS site by searching for Prairie Creek Ag Lands.)

The last item on the agenda was an amendment to the flood plain codes of Jasper County, but after almost two hours of meeting, the members decided to table the discussion for a future meeting. After the Commission adjourned, the Board of Zoning Appeal met. The only item on the agenda was a special exception for sand mining, but since the zoning had not changed, they could not act on the matter, so they moved the item to the September meeting. 

And now for something completely different. You might remember from biology that a lichen is the symbiosis of a fungus and an alga. That understanding of lichen, which has been around for 150 years, is incorrect. Read about what a lichen really is here.

I need a picture, so here is a happy one. Gas prices in town are again below $2.00 a gallon.

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