leaf December 18, 2013       Council vote advances plan for city-county zoning match‏

Dan Stockman - Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne continued its historic move toward an aligned zoning law with Allen County when City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a new zoning ordinance.

leaf October 10, 2013
        Zoning Ordinance Update Project Adoption draft meetings - Community Groups

We are sending this to let you know about the upcoming Plan Commission public hearing and business meeting for the last phase of the ongoing Allen County – Fort Wayne Zoning Ordinance Update project. As you know, the primary objective of this project is to update and align the Fort Wayne and Allen County zoning ordinances. This project is part of ongoing work to improve, clarify, simplify, and streamline the development and permitting processes.

The Adoption draft Allen County and Fort Wayne zoning ordinance documents have been completed by Clarion Associates and the Department of Planning Services staff.

This final phase of the project includes revised updated and aligned zoning ordinance language for:

1. General Provisions

2. Zoning district permitted uses, development standards, and special uses

3. Development Processes and Standards

   · Development Plans

   · Site Plan Review

   · Subdivision Control

4. Additional General Standards, including:

   · Development Design standards

   · Landscape standards

   · Parking standards

   · Sign standards

   · Airport Overlay districts standards

   · Floodplain management standards

   · Accessory and Temporary Structures and Uses

5. Administration

6. Definitions

The Allen County and Fort Wayne Plan Commissions will hold a joint public hearing on Wednesday, October 16th at 6:00 p.m. in Room 045 on the Garden (Basement) Level of the Citizens Square building (the Omni Room). Citizens Square is located at 200 E. Berry Street.

The Adoption draft documents are located at the DPS website at: http://www.allencounty.us/dps

The Plan Commissions have established the following procedures for this public hearing.

1) The hearing will begin with a presentation on the zoning ordinances.

2) Comments from the audience will follow. The Plan Commissions are asking speakers to register in advance of the public hearing. You may register to speak by calling Cathy at 260-449-7607 or you may register in person starting one hour before the hearing outside of Room 045. Speakers will be limited to three (3) minutes.

3) If you are unable to attend the hearing but want to be heard, please send 20 copies of your written comments to the Department of Planning Services office (Suite 150 Citizens Square) before noon on Monday, October 14, 2013; or you may bring your written comments and submit them at the hearing. Please include your name and mailing address on all correspondence.

4) The Plan Commissions will meet in a business meeting on Wednesday, October 30th at 6 p.m. in Room 045 of Citizens Square to consider the ordinance proposals and vote on the recommendations they will send on for final action.

Please plan on attending this meeting and giving any input you have on this final phase of the zoning ordinance update project. Please forward this email to other members and representatives of your organization who you feel would be interested in attending this meeting.

Deptartment of Planning Services

February 24, 2013    Proposed changes to zoning regulations‏

I attended two of the several scheduled meetings held over two days in which changes were discussed. My shareholder interest was in the discussion on agricultural and residential, and I also attended the public meeting. Representatives from Clarion Associates were in charge of the presentations. Their goal with these changes is to improve, streamline, simplify and clarify the steps for residents and business leaders to follow when submitting an application to the board. An alignment of city and county laws will be accomplished. The rules would be the same no matter where the location. It was stated that they reviewed and took into account the proposals outlined in “Plan-It-Allen”. This is how their term “streamline” is defined. When an applicant, for example, wants to build in an area, if the site is already zoned for a building purpose, it would not be necessary to hold a public hearing because the planning commission would have to legally permit it because it is already zoned for that purpose. This is where the public would not have a say. This is the situation that has frustrated the public, that when they voice objections to a project and the request is granted, it feels like their voices have not been heard. In the past, it has not been communicated to the public that the request will be granted as long as regulations have been meet. When it is not necessary to schedule a public hearing and permits are reviewed internally, the process to grant a permit results in a few weeks instead of months. The trade off would be stricter rules and requirements for the proposed project.

Shelby Sommer of Clarion said the positive results would be: required green space, set backs, screening, landscaping and lighting. Legislative streamlining would identify zoning ordinance barriers, avoid duplication of ordinances, and support planning services by implementing the stricter rules and regulations. Two levels of granting permits will exist, primary and secondary. Secondary will deal with the most complex situations. These will be entered in charts and tables and be checked off as the requirements are satisfied. Complete applications would be required the first time- no exceptions. Timelines would be set for the county surveyor. The extremely important issue then is that the public needs to be involved and have a time to state its acceptance or rejection of a proposed change of zoning or asking for an exception to the rules. This change in zoning and /or rules would require a public hearing. Everyone is affected by “land-use plans” and “nonconforming uses”. Therefore persons should have a voice in reviewing and commenting on proposals.

The timeline: Clarion and Patrick Fahey (PatrickFahey@allencounty.us) or by phone at 449-7607 will take public comments through April. All input will be revised in May. It will be integrated into draft, phase 2 and 3 in June. Adaptation process will occur in late June and early July. The Plan Commission will make recommendations and those go to City/County Council and then to the Commissioners. Clarion Associates suggests that all changes and acceptance of those changes definitely be done by the end of the year so any permit applications in the new year can be processed using the new rules and requirements. Existing businesses or residences could be required to make adjustments to their property under the new standards, such as not being able to add on to the building because of a required set-back or having to establish a buffer zone, screening, landscaping or lighting. Comments can also be mailed to Patrick Fahey of the Department of Planning Services at 200 East Berry Street, Suite 150, Citizens Square, Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

Website to definitely visit: http://www.allencounty.us/land-use/dps. This is a 277 page report and is broken down into 8 sections. It is an outline of this zoning process and gives valuable information. I would suggest reviewing it and submitting your comments pertaining to the areas of your interest and concern. I am planning to say there must be a provision for the public to give views on zoning changes or rule exceptions by means of public hearings. I’m still working on comments on my views of allowing new construction without a proper infrastructure. Rules can be reviewed in Allen county A-1 and A-3 Permitted Uses, Allen County Subdivision Control (Development Processes). This is your opportunity to make your voice heard. When this process is closed for input, it will be done.

My final thought. If more authority is being delegated to the staff of the Department of Planning Services for granting permits without public input, my question is “how is the staff appointed and by whom, and what are their qualifications to hold said position”? They will be required to review the revised zoning ordinances and adhere to all rules regulating the permits. We as the general public will still need to hold them accountable for their decisions.

Shirley Meighen
President of Friends of Cedar Creek

leaf September 18 2009

New plat ordinance for special interests, not citizens

Alan Diefenbach - Friends of Cedar Creek - Huntertown

Published in Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The new Minor Plat ordinance is here and ready for a hearing Oct. 15. However, it is a shame to bring to this public hearing a rewrite of the county ordinance without having included any of the groups or individuals who brought this vague ordinance to the attention of the public.

Eight of the "Study Group" out of 11 are realtors or builders aligned with the development community and their particular interests. It smacks of special treatment and continues poor experiences with the Allen County Plan Commission. No environmental groups were invited. No one from the Cedar Creek area and the most alarmed citizens were invited (though the commissioners assured that they would be in their Aug. 22, 2008, meeting). Not a single word in the ordinance addresses the County Master Plan. It negates the Plan-it Allen master plan, co-chaired over a three-year period by Charles Bodenhafer and Marla Irving. None of the environmental groups who participated in the work groups for that document was invited either.

This Minor Plat Ordinance is a rebirth of the old Planned Unit Development, or PUD, discredited in years past. It does not benefit the community at large and only allows exceptional latitude in development in all areas of the county. The cost to your community? A changing face of the rural areas, farms and wooded areas that have made Allen County the place it is.

The input of county residents so well spoken to in the Plan-it Allen document is eviscerated by this new ordinance. Go ahead and read it ask yourself, "Can you possibly understand the new ordinance? What benefit is it to you? Does it grant new park areas and green areas? Is the wording so complex as to make one wonder whether the county is coming to take some of your rights away?"

There is no future in patronizing a few for the benefit of a few. This new ordinance is strictly a land development tool with extremely low restraint on land developers. Ask yourself it is so onerous to put some restraints on land developing: do property owners have responsibilities on their property? Do residents have responsibilities for the way they drive, the way they play? Sure they do. Property rights have restraints and responsibilities, too.

It is time to recognize just whose property we really are talking about and what the assets of a community are when it comes to land development. Once we develop a concrete paradise it will be outside ou lifetime and our children's if it ever returns to a natural area.

So do this: Make a decision that this is the time to tell your local government, county commissioners and the County Council representatives, that you want to see fair government that really is working for the benefit of everyone, discussions in the open, with balanced representation in working committees. You'll be glad you did.

The public hearing regarding the changes to the Minor Plat Ordinance will be at 1 p.m. Oct. 15 in Room 126 of the City-County Building.

leaf September 20, 2009

Adverse Development
Critics want county plat law repealed, say revisions harmful.

Amanda Iacone - The Journal Gazette

Proposed changes to an Allen County law that was meant to reel in farmland development would instead encourage urban sprawl, critics claim.

The law, known as Allen County’s minor plat ordinance, governs how farmland can be divided into smaller pieces – either for city dwellers who want to build a dream home in the country or for farmers who are retiring or short on cash and need to sell their land. A plat is a legal record of the land divisions.

County planning officials sought the minor plat ordinance after completing a new comprehensive plan in 2007. The plan is a blueprint for development that spells out where houses or factories should be built and protects farmland and natural areas.

While drafting the blueprint, planners learned that carving up and selling agricultural property led to the development of about 17,000 acres in Allen County during the past decade.

That land was divided and developed under an old rule that allowed two lots to be sold from one largertract with no oversight from county planning staff.

That led to sales of land not suitable for building. Homes that were built are scattered across the landscape, making it tough, critics contend, for paramedics and police to find residents in need.

The new ordinance allows six lots – one house per lot – that are each smaller than 20 acres to be split from the larger, original property every 18 months in agricultural zoning districts.

Creating these miniature housing additions requires plan commission approval. The seller must provide streets, utility easements and street lighting and control stormwater runoff as part of the process.

Since the ordinance took effect in 2008, a handful of minor plats have been approved. The controversial Canyon Cliffs estate-style development in northern Allen County involved five of these minisubdivisions being developed at once as a single neighborhood, with 28 homes stretched over 139 acres.

Several environmental groups and neighbors fought the development. They objected to the size and the use of public utilities plus questioned why the developer could file five minor plats for one development.

The project sparked lawsuits, and the Canyon Cliffs’ developers submitted different versions of the neighborhood to the plan commission. They opted to develop the area one house at a time, which will take several years under county law.

Because of opponents’ concerns, the plan commission reconvened the group that originally crafted the ordinance to suggest a fix. The group released its findings this summer, and the plan commission is expected to have public hearings on the revisions this fall.

But the study group’s suggested changes haven’t allayed concerns of Realtors, farmers and some residents. Some believe the revisions do not match the stated intent behind the ordinance and would rather see the law repealed, not amended.

Under Fire

For critics, the most important proposed change would pave the way for more Canyon Cliffs-type projects – those involving several miniature subdivisions developed as one neighborhood – to sprout throughout the county.

The revisions would allow for more than two minor plats to be developed in the same area. A third plat to be filed with planning staff would receive additional scrutiny, Surveyor Al Frisinger said, and developers would have to meet a higher bar for things like drainage.

That scrutiny doesn’t mean the project would be denied. It would just take additional work, likely by an engineer, to meet the county’s requirements, Frisinger said.

The current law allows two minor plats to be developed in the same area, but the law is silent on whether several plats, like the five sought for Canyon Cliffs, is permitted.

Critics like Dennis Baker, who lives near the proposed Cliffs project, and neighboring farmer Larry Yoder call that “stacking.”

Allowing developers to file multiple minor plats in an area for a single neighborhood ignores the comprehensive plan. The county’s land use ordinance should work with that blueprint and ensure that large development occurs near cities and towns and does not carve up natural areas and farmland, Yoder said.

And Baker believes permitting stacking would ensure that more projects like Canyon Cliffs are built.

“The way this is worded right now, there could be a 300-home subdivision out in the middle of the country. Are you going to build that all on septic? I don’t know that a developer would want to do that, but they could,” Baker said.

Baker also objects to eliminating terms in the law that limit the scope and size of these small subdivisions. Those terms were a key part of opponents’ fight against Canyon Cliffs, he said, because they felt 28 homes was too many to fit the definition of “small.”

Also, the Canyon Cliffs project called for public sewer and water to be extended several miles to the addition. Baker and others said that violated the ordinance, which called for no major improvements to the land. For Baker, sewer and water lines are major improvements, he said.

But Frisinger defended removing the conditions from the law, saying that any construction – such as a house, barn or drainage pond – is substantial. The committee felt it important to allow public sewer connections because Allen County’s clay soil doesn’t work well for septic systems, he said.

Frisinger defended the other proposed changes. He said he feels the revisions would give landowners more flexibility, make the process more appealing and ensure that property values are enhanced.

Opinions Vary:

“The look we tried to achieve is something that was friendly to the constituents and residents of Allen County,” Frisinger said. “It accomplished what we wanted it to.”

Brian Roemke, another committee member and a local farmer, said the group tried to craft a fair and consistent law that took into account all concerns.

He thinks the proposed changes would help cluster any new homes built in rural areas instead of allowing houses to be scattered across the county. That’s key for active farmers who prefer to farm one large tract of ground as opposed to several small properties broken up by housing, Roemke said.

But another committee member thinks the law has morphed into something quite different.

“The intent of the original law was to preserve Allen County land and to slow down development in the county,” said Jerry Ehle, Realtor and committee member. “The recent changes, to me, expedite the development in the county.”

Meeting the technical rules required by the law is above and beyond what a farmer or typical homeowner could tackle. Developers, however, are able to navigate those rules, Ehle said.

The proposed changes also make the minor plat process more appealing to developers by allowing them to stack several of these small subdivisions to create one neighborhood. Those developers could build on rural land more cheaply and faster than before the minor plat ordinance took effect, Ehle said.

Ehle favors repealing the ordinance and letting farmers sell two pieces of ground each year. But he also wants planning officials to review and sign off on those sales, ensuring that a house could be built there in the future.

“To me, it’s going backward. Here’s an easier way to develop where there is no public utilities. I just don’t think that’s right. A community should be built from the core out,” Baker said.