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Porter County residents bring concerns about several proposals to board

VALPARAISO — Residents from Boone Grove to Jackson Township filled the commissioners chambers for Wednesday night’s Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.

The majority of them were unhappy with what was proposed for their neighborhoods, which ran the gamut from an auto repair shop to storage of explosives, and weren’t afraid to share why, which is probably why the meeting stretched on for more than five hours.

A rundown of what the BZA faced:

Dean Williamson proposed moving his auto repair business to Morgan Township, on Division Road near County Road 325.

In addition to the fact that neighbors were concerned about noise, traffic, pollution, and possible dropping property values, Williamson had the structure built before seeking a variance. The contractor got a permit for an agricultural building, not an industrial one, and the building is five feet taller than allowed by the zoning.

Attorney Todd Leeth, representing Williamson, said the zoning allowed for much worse than an auto repair shop, including a crematory and a distribution facility.

The industrial zoning, in place since the late 1950s, didn’t account for the subdivisions that sprouted in the absence of industry, said board member Tim Cole.

Board members tabled the matter until their Aug. 21 meeting so they can sort out the building permit and other matters.

A proposal for storing explosive material in Washington Township raised more questions than it answered, so the board continued that matter until Aug. 21 as well. No county zoning classification allows for such storage.

Rocky Mountain Specialty Services, which has an office in Hammond, wants to store the explosives, used for industrial cleaning, in a structure on four acres at County Road 420 North and Old Indiana 2.

Residents questioned the company’s driving safety record, whether vacuum trucks for waste would be on site, how the site would be secured, its proximity to the schools, and the need for an emergency plan in case of a detonation.

Also frustrated was board attorney Scott McClure, when one of the owners couldn’t provide solid details on the trucks, fencing for the site, and whether plans included a staffed office.

“Next time, it’s got to be exactly what you want to do,” he said. “We cannot handle the what ifs with a project like this.”

The board turned down a request by Kenneth Price to sell firearms for hunting and archery, along with outerwear, from an accessory structure in the Jackson Heights subdivision in Jackson Township.

The board voted 4-1 against the proposal, citing conservancy district covenants that restrict home-based businesses. Neighbors worried about traffic, safety, and the impact on home values.

With a 3-2 vote, the board approved a crushed gravel driveway and parking lot for Boone Grove High School, with the stipulation that the school corporation pave both within five years or tear them out.

Neighbors wondered about the impact on drainage and nearby wetlands, as well as the need for the additional parking.



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