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

Thursday, July 26, 2018

More long meetings, part two

After the BZA meeting on Monday ended, the Plan Commission meeting opened. It had five items on its agenda. First up was a case of a tenant living in Barkley Township who wanted to stop paying rent and purchase the home she was living in. However, the house is on a 15 acre lot of land, most of which is tillable, and the owner did not want to sell the whole lot nor did the tenant want to purchase it. The decision was to have a one acre lot carved out and rezoned R1. However, R1 lots are not supposed to be adjacent to A1 lots. If the rezone would have been a request for an A2 classification, the minimum lot size would, according to the code, be two acres. So there was a brief discussion and eventually the Commission decided that there would be no harm done with the rezone and there were benefits, so they passed the request, which now goes to the Commissioners for final approval. What was a bit unusual about this item is that the house is directly south and less than half a mile from a large dairy.

The second item was a carry-over from the last meeting, a request for approval of a four-lot subdivision in Wheatfield township. The land had been subdivided three years ago and the Code says land can only be subdivided every five years, so the petitioners will have to wait two more years. The third item on the agenda did not get published correctly so will be delayed until the next meeting. There were a number of neighbors from Union Township who were concerned enough to be at the meeting, but some of their questions were answered before the meeting proceeded to the fourth item.

The fourth item was from Carpenter Township, a request to rezone a six-acre lot from A1 to A2 so a second house can be built on it. It was approved, though again the County Commissioners have final say. Unusual about this is that the new house would be on a carved out lot with the larger parcel surrounding it on three sides. The requirement for a house on A2 is that it have a frontage of at least 250 feet. The larger lot, containing the existing house, would have 300 feet, but it would be split in two parts.

The final item on the agenda was an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance regarding setbacks for confined feeding operations. In the previous meeting the Commission had considered a recommendation from the Commissioners, but decided that the setbacks to property lines were too short, so had changed the proposal. The Commissioners did not like their new setbacks, so had suggested a new number as well as a few minor changes. The Plan Commission's attorney said that they could either accept the new recommendations from the County Commissioners or reject them but could not change them. So the motion was made to reject them with the anticipation that the County Commissioners would at their next meeting pass the ordinance with the wording that the Plan Commission was rejecting. The meeting finally adjourned at 9:45.

On Tuesday I was able to swing by the Farmers Market and see the crowd that Kids' Night had brought out.
I had a commitment on Tuesday afternoon that made me miss the joint Commissioners-Council meeting and made me late to the County Council meeting. When I arrived, the Council was finishing up approving tax abatements. They approved the last year of a Monsanto abatement and an abatement for Remington seeds. They then moved on to additional appropriations and in dollar terms, passed a huge amount. There was a small appropriation for the Sheriff's Department. The department has turnover, especially among part-time employees. The entire staff of Court House Security has turned over in the past year and the sheriff noted that it was hard to keep lower-paid employees when Advance Auto is paying $17 an hour plus benefits. The County Highway Department requested an appropriation of $2 million that is needed to match a $2 million grant from the State for road improvements. The Commissioners budget was given an additional appropriation to pay the State Board of Accounts for their examination of the County's records. The Coroner has been doing a lot of autopsies and now has new state reporting regulations (but not new state funding to pay for those reports) and needed an extra $6,000. Finally an expenditure of $1.1 million from the rainy-day fund was approved to pay for Court House renovations.

Finally the Council reached the topic that the standing-room-only crowd was waiting for, the discussion of approving a donation from the innkeepers' tax fund for the Rensselaer Parks for People campaign. At the previous meeting the Council had approved a donation of $10,000 but told the Director of Economic Development that he could put the item back on the agenda. The presentation began with a video and then a presentation by Stace Pickering. One thing that surprised me was mention that the kiddie pool at Brookside would be replaced with a splash pad. (The kiddie pool has been out of operation for several weeks this summer and is currently drained.)

After the presentation and some discussion,  Gerrit DeVries said that the original purpose of the inn keepers tax was to help fund festivals and that he did not think the large sum requested ($175,000) should be given to one project. He suggested that $25,000 be given to the parks in Rensselaer but the same amount given to the parks in DeMotte, Wheatfield, and Remington. A motion was made to approve a contribution of an additional $100,000 to the Parks for People campaign. There was discussion of what precedent this would set. In the past few years the Tourism Commission gave DeMotte parks $10,000 as part of a $200,000 campaign, or 5% of the total. The donation of $110,000 is 7.33% of the campaign goal of $1.5 million. When in the future the Tourism Commission will be approached by other communities and groups to fund capital improvements, these percentages will be used to judge what a reasonable donation will be and the Council will almost certainly look back at these percentages when they approve or disapprove of these donations. The motion then passed with one opposed.

With that settled, most of the audience left. The Council then approved a long, legalese ordinance that allows the drainage board to set up a revolving line of credit to pay for drainage projects. The loans will be backed by funds in the County's rainy-day fund. The Council also voted to make no changes in the local income tax (LIT) or the distributions from that tax for the next year.

One more meeting is worth mentioning. The group that is planning the Weston Cemetery Walk for September 22 met on Monday. The price of tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for children. The Walk will highlight eight graves/markers in the eastern part of the Cemetery using costumed reenactors. Many little items that need to be decided to make this event a reality. If you have ever been part of a group planning an event, you know how many little decisions have to be made to make an event happen. Members of the Historical Society have been talking about doing a cemetery walk for at least four years and this year will be the year it finally happens. Their goal is to make this an annual event.

This weekend Carnegie players have the first performance of Annie Get Your Gun and the Rock the Arts Festival will bring crowds to Potawatomie Park.

One more picture: inverters. The solar panels have been installed at the new solar park on the north edge of town and now the equipment needed to make the electricity generated by the panels compatible with the grid must be installed.

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