GOSHEN — A group in charge of revising Elkhart County’s zoning laws is seeking guidance from the county’s plan commission following a decision last month to limit residential uses, including houses, on agricultural land.
The plan commission voted 5-4 in December to recommend to the group, called the policy committee, to restrict residential development in agricultural zones. The policy committee wants to clarify the extent of the restrictions and get more direction on how to move forward with the zoning ordinance’s revisions.
“I don’t know what the five who voted to remove residential wanted, and I agree with the committee that they need to get some clarification,” plan commission member Blake Doriot said.
Doriot, who said he has been to all of the policy committee’s meetings, was one of the four plan commission members who voted against separating residential uses from agricultural land.
Chris Godlewski, county plan director, said he interpreted the plan commission’s recommendation as allowing homes to be built on agricultural land on lots three acres and larger. Smaller properties would need to be rezoned to residential, he said.
Plan commission member Frank Lucchese, who also serves on the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners, said the commissioners are not opposed to building on agricultural land but added that three acres should be the minimum lot size for a home.
“If you have three acres or more, you can build a house on it,” Lucchese repeated. “Anything less than that or higher density, that needs to be rezoned to residential because that’s residential, not agricultural.”
Lucchese pointed out that Elkhart County was on track to become the fourth largest county in Indiana in 2006 before the recession hit.
“We are an urban county,” he said. “We are not a rural county anymore. We have to plan for the future.”
Before the plan commission announced its recommendation, the policy committee had already unanimously agreed that residential uses on agricultural properties would be acceptable. Doriot said there needs to be more communication between the two groups, adding that the members of the policy committee are willing to compromise.
Godlewski plans to meet with plan commission members individually over the next few weeks to come up with some guidelines for the policy committee. He is expected to present those guidelines in February.