County Plan Commission Approves Rezoning, Sends It On To Town

Kosciusko County Courthouse. (Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw)

Kosciusko Area Plan Commission approved Marlin Miller’s petition to rezone the old Syracuse Elementary School grounds from public use and residential district to a residential and commercial district at their Wednesday meeting.

The property is on the north side of Brooklyn Street, 150 feet east of Main Street, in Turkey Creek Township.

Plan Director Dan Richard noted that where the school building sat, the north, west and east area of the property is zoned for public use and that’s what Miller wants changed to residential. The commercial district area is where the former gymnasium sits, to the south and west. Richard reminded everyone the matter will go before the Syracuse Town Board for final approval on Jan. 19. There also will be an appearance before the Board of Zoning Appeals for a few exceptions.

Miller, representing RG Lincoln Investments of Nappanee, said he plans a 45-unit apartment complex in the residential district and a food production operation in the former gym.

Meat and other products would be prepared, packaged and distributed from the site, just like his company operates in Nappanee.

“I’m willing to sign a waiver only allowing food production or storage, no live animals,” he said, adding he has 20 employees now, which could increase to 40 employees working Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Unlike the Nappanee location, the Syracuse location wouldn’t have a retail outlet. He said he distributes the food coast-to-coast, under private label, to grocery stores and gas stations.

Richard said the BZA would have to grant an exception for a multi-family apartment complex in the residential area and another for food production in the commercial zone.

Laura Charles, of 511 Brooklyn St., Syracuse, spoke against the petition. She and her husband, James, live to the south of the old school.

“It’s not appealing,” she said of the 45-unit apartment. “It’s too much, too many cars, too many people and will have a lot of impact.

“Secondly, I don’t want to live next to a meat-packing plant. My husband is in poor health and doesn’t need to inhale smoke four hours a day. It’s not ideal.”

The Plan Commission voted on the redistricting as separate items. Mike Kissinger abstained from both votes. Joe Cazier voted against changing the residential zone to a commercial zone. However, the petition passed and will go to the Syracuse Town Council for final review.

In other business, Dr. Lee Harman was elected chairman of the commission for 2021; Kevin McSherry, vice chairman; and Mike Kissinger, secretary, each man holding the same office as last year. The other members are Cazier, Mandy Espinoza, Bob Conley, Doug Ruch, Larry Coplen and Jon Garber.

Assistant Planner Matt Sandy presented a proposed fee schedule for building permits. The rates are $10 for agriculture, residential accessory and residential additions and $25 for commercial, industrial, mobile homes, multi-family, public use and residential. Currently, all building permits are free.

However the planning office has had an interest, because of many, many requests, in offering the permitting process online and that costs money.

Along with the fee schedule was a pretend income based on the proposed fees the last four years. In 2020, the 1,145 permits issued would have brought in $15,650 with costs of $8,000 for the hosting fee, $785 to mail permit posters and about $90 for office supplies, leaving a little more than $7,000 remaining from the fee collection.

Sandy said other counties in the region charge as much as $250 per permit and Kosciusko County would be on the very inexpensive end of fees for permits. The fees won’t be in effect until an ordinance is approved for them.

The planning office, along with the health and highway departments, plan to launch their new websites at the same time, in a month or two.

Discussion on revising the flood ordinance was put on hold.