Leesburg Votes To Join County Plan Commission

Leesburg City Center. (Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw)

Leesburg Town Council approved joining Kosciusko County Area Planning Commission during a special meeting Monday.

Council President Doug Jones said the council has been working on deciding whether or not to join the Commission for the past six months. However, this is not the first time the council looked at joining. The council decided against joining in 2009 “because that’s not what the people of Leesburg wanted at the time,” Jones said.

He said, in the past, there have been several issues that have come to the council, which included complaints of a dog kennel being run out of a house, residents running a deer processing plant out of their home and a mobile home request.

“All these things are outside the purview of the town board. Without a planning commission, we have no way to deal with it, unless we work around with our ordinances and find a way to deal with it,” Jones said.

Councilwoman Christina Archer said one of the reasons to join Area Plan is to make sure the property owners are assured their investments are worthwhile and nothing is going to pop up they don’t like next to them. There’s not a lot the council can do about what people with their property.

Jones said, in the past, the council has almost said “do as you wish and that doesn’t afford the residents of Leesburg any protection.”

“In the state of Indiana, the courts have decreed that town councils can not deal with area planning without a planning commission,” Councilman Tom Moore said. The town’s options are to make a nine-member planning board or to join an already existing one.

Area Plan Director Dan Richard said many zoning ordinances revolve around the zoning map. When Leesburg initially contacted Area Plan in possibly joining, Area Plan made up a proposed zoning map. Richard said what the commission attempted to do was take existing uses and put them in the map.

“We have only so many categories. We have residential, commercial and industrial, a public use, an environmental and our industrial one is broken down into three different ones,” Richard said. He pointed out that on the current proposed zoning map, most of Leesburg is categorized as residential.

One topic Richard talked about was apartments in a residential area. He stated apartments, up to a duplex, can go into a residential zone, if there is enough square footage, frontage and parking. Anything more than a duplex would require a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals. That’s where it gets into compatibility, Richard said.

For the Plan Commission and BZA hearings, notifications are sent out to anyone who owns adjacent property and the town is always notified.

In the hearings, Moore said people’s neighbors have a voice. Without a plan commission, neighbors don’t have one.

By joining the Area Plan, Richard said the town will be able to have a say of the town’s own density and how it grows and where. He said the town has a say of whether the towns becomes more of an orthopedic town or another type of business.

Richard said the Area Plan will only affect businesses if there is a change in the business.

“If you got an existing business and you’re zoned commercial, you can stay in business and you can operate the way you want,” Richard said. It’s just when something wants to change does Area Planning get involved. One example Richard gave is if someone is running a business and the business wants to expand.

There will some nonconforming uses in town.

“They can stay as they are. They cannot zone someone out of business,” Richard said. Nonconforming uses can stay as they are, as long as they stay as they are. Any changes are subject to a hearing.

The next step for the town is the adoption of the zoning map, Richard said. The ordinances are based off of the zoning map.

The date for the final adoption will be announced at the town council’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11.

The proposed zoning map will be left up at Town Hall and people can call the clerk-treasurer’s office with questions. A letter will be sent to property owners notifying them the town voted to join the Area Planning Commission.

Richard said all the ordinances are listed at kcgov.com. People can look at the zoning map online, but for Leesburg nothing will be posted yet because nothing has been adopted.