Speakers sound off at meeting on zoning ordinance proposal

They came out in full force Thursday for a hearing on the proposed overhaul of Elkhart County's zoning ordinance, sounding off for three-and-a-half hours.
Posted on April 16, 2011 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 16, 2011 at 3:48 a.m.

GOSHEN -- They came out in full force Thursday for a hearing on the proposed overhaul of Elkhart County's zoning ordinance, sounding off for three-and-a-half hours.

Given the late finish Thursday night of the Elkhart County Plan Commission meeting, though, The Truth wasn't able to include many of the 40 or so participants' comments in our coverage Friday. Below are a few more statements, in the order made.

The overwhelming majority of speakers criticized the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance, worrying that they'd hamper their rights as landowners or reduce property values.

The plan commission ultimately voted against change and the future of the effort remains in limbo.

* Bob Watkins, Elkhart County Planning Department director: County leaders met with 10 groups over the past two years in crafting the proposal. It's a "middle of the road ordinance, not too strict, not too weak."

* Randy Wilson, business owner: New businesses want the sort of zoning safeguards the ordinance proposal offers and, accordingly, its implementation would serve as a lure. That's needed as Elkhart County attempts to reinvent itself and recover from the recession.

With other communities competing for new business, Elkhart County must step up "or we will be left behind in any recovery."

* Bob Schultz, real estate agent: The current ordinance allows for less intense uses on individual parcels than what they're actually zoned for, something called pyramid zoning. Commercial activities could occur on land zoned for manufacturing, for instance.

That flexibility would fade with the proposal, though, "detracting from the usability of peoples' land."

* Pete Recchio, leader of a tea party group: Has anyone completed a study to determine the impact of the proposed ordinance? If not, how can commissioners gauge the implications of its implementation?

Any reworking of the zoning ordinances should be "bottom up," not "shoved down the throats" of the public.

* Andrew Hicks: Standards on home placement relative to the street in front vary between zoning classifications, without apparent logic.

In one proposed zoning classification, home fronts must be parallel to the street or askew to it at an angle measuring not more than 30 degrees. In another, they must be parallel or askew at an angle of not more than 15 degrees. In a third, they must be parallel or askew at an angle of exactly 30 degrees -- three standards "and they're all arbitrary."

Another landscaping requirement says lawns of new homes must be planted with one to three trees. If the plant dies, though, there's no stipulation to replace it. "I don't see the whole point of it."

* Jeff Chupp, developer: Growth as it has occurred in Elkhart County doesn't seem so bad. "It looks like somebody had actually planned it well, and a lot of that is market driven."

The proposal would double the price of developing rural lots for homes and be "the death knell for local builders."

* Scott Jones, leader in a local tea party group: Under the proposal, individual landowners would lose authority over use of their land. Instead, the county would "dictate back to us" how it can be used.

* James Kolbus, plan commission legal counsel: The plan commission decided early on to completely redo the county's zoning ordinances, not just tweak them. That led to the hiring of a consultant to assist in the process, Zionsville-based Ground Rules.

* Brad Johnson, Ground Rules: His company has been paid $93,000 thus far to assist the county.

* Ben Ramey, real estate agent: If county officials approve the zoning ordinance proposal "you will have a lot of problems henceforth."

* Galen Miller, poultry comany operator: "Just admit, perhaps, you need to regroup and start over."

* Mike Yoder, plan commission member, county commissioner and key mover in development of the ordinance proposal: "It's not an easy process," he said, alluding to talk of scrapping the proposal and starting over from scratch. "It's a messy process."

* Tom Holt, plan commission member: Specific standards guiding residential and other development go "way too far."

* Jeff Burbrink, plan commission member: Things such as proposed landscaping guidelines for homes "are just wrong."

Recommended for You

Back to top ^