County BZA Denies Wedding Venue Exception –

At the June meeting of the Kosciusko County Board of Zoning Appeals, petitioner Paul Suddon is seen from left; Dan Richard, Director of the Planning Commission; Amy Irwin, Regulations Administrator; Charlotte Siegfried, BZA member; Lee Harman, BZA President; and BZA member Randy Cox views video of Suddon’s property. Photo by Lauren Zeugner.

By Lauren Zeugner

WARSAW — Courtney Fields’ application for an exemption for the purpose of permitting a commercial recreation and wedding venue in an agricultural district was unanimously denied by the regular meeting of the Kosciusko County Appeals Committee on Tuesday, June 14.

Fields’ property is located east of SR 13, west of Old SR 13 in Washington Township, just north of Pierceton. She told the board she wants to use the property to host weddings of up to 300 guests, as well as other events.

After she outlined her plans for operating hours, parking, and drainage, Dan Richard, Director of the Planning Commission, presented 11 letters of protest to the board. Local attorney Steve Snyder, who represented scores of protesters, several of whom attended the hearing, gave a detailed explanation as to why the board should reject the exception.

He argued that the venue would cause traffic problems in an area that had seen numerous collisions, and listed other concerns – limited parking, light pollution, noise pollution and drainage issues – the property has a wetland area near its northern property line.

There is also a circular ditch running through the property which is almost full. Snyder also pointed out that the property would require a commercial septic system overseen by the state health department. One of Snyder’s exhibits came from a neighbor who is a veterinary assistant. The exhibit said that so many people going in and out could stress nearby livestock, while a local agent wrote that it would negatively impact the values ​​of neighboring properties.

Fields tried to defend her plan, saying she wanted the venue to look like a farmhouse and host “upscale weddings.” She told the board the site plan was only intended to give the board an idea of ​​what she was planning for the company.

Lee Harman, president of the BZA board, indicated significant opposition from neighbors and opposed the exception. His motion was accepted by the rest of the board.

Tammy Cotton, program coordinator for Living in Transition Effectively, came before the board and requested an exception to allow the modification and modification of a non-confirming use, allowing for the use of a vicarage as transitional housing for up to six women and an in-program/house director at an estate on Catherine Street in Milford.

Cotton explained that the program is supported by the United Methodist District and Conference. LITE helps women transition from county jail back into the community by providing a variety of services. The program uses the former Milford United Methodist Church next door.

Milford City Council sent a letter of support to the board. Pastor Mike Beezley, who was appointed by the United Methodist Conference to oversee LITE’s program, told the board, “We are doing this under the eyes of the conference… I assure you they have great oversight.”

Dan Brown, a neighbor who lives next door to the church and vicarage, said: “This is a unique opportunity for the church. I’m happy to see something on this corner that has a lot of support.”

Van Buren Parish Trustee Becky Alles told the board it was devastating to close the church, but “God is moving in a wonderful way… This is a much-needed program in our church.” The board unanimously approved the motion.

In a follow-up last month, the board heard a variance motion from the Indiana North District Wesleyan Church, which sought to reduce the required parking spaces from 125 to 61 for a commercial property.

A civil engineer from Dollar General, the trading company that is buying into the property, said the company has requested a reduction in the number of parking spaces in the past. He also discussed the landscape plan.

Richards told the engineer that 10 trees doesn’t provide much of a buffer. He called for more green to be included in the landscape plan. Harman asked about drainage issues. Richards was told there would be no drainage from the parking lot onto surrounding properties.

Silver Lake City Council President Hugh Murfin told BZA the council is in favor of Dollar General reducing the number of parking spaces and said a competitor has just 12 parking spaces and appears to be doing well.

Carolyn Montel told BZA she had no problem reducing parking. Her problem was the entrance to the parking lot directly across from her living room window. “Dixie Drive is a residential street. Entry/exit should be on SR 15,” she said.

The board approved the application as submitted.

The board also approved the following petitions:

  • An exception to allow RV storage in an agricultural district. The property, owned by Javier Ivan Gonzalez, is located on the CR 1300N in the municipality of Van Buren.
  • A deviation to allow a residence to remain as built by the previous owner and to allow the construction of a screened pavilion. The property is owned by Shawn Bloom.
  • An exception to allow a home business in an agricultural district. The property, owned by Michael Young, is located on Syracuse Webster Road in the community of Turkey Creek.
  • A deviation requested by Paul Suddon to build a carport over an RV a foot from the side property line. This was approved pending a letter of approval from Suddon’s neighbors.
  • A deviation requested by James Tranter to allow an existing coach house to remain as placed. Approved with a $1,000 settlement.
  • A deviation requested by Tim Towne to install a handicapped accessible bathroom. The addition would be zero feet from the west touchline. Approved with the consent of the neighbor.
  • A deviation requested by Michael Burkholder to amend and modify an earlier case to allow the construction of a 78ft x 122ft addition to an existing building.
  • A derogation requested by Jonathan and April Wyngarden to permit construction of a new residence zero feet from the water’s edge and 20 feet from the Crow Road right of way.
  • A deviation requested by Whitney Clark Lambert to allow an existing 10′ x 16′ shed to remain as it was erected. The board approved leaving the shed in place pending sewerage installation and operation.
  • A derogation requested by Ashley Ries to allow a 12ft x 30ft shed to be relocated 5ft from the driveway.

After handling numerous petitions involving sheds being put up without a permit, BZA member Randy Cox said: “We have all these pop-up shops that sell sheds. You have to tell people they need a permit!”

The board also continued two cases relating to followers that Ryan Stuckman placed in Blacks Court.

The board also approved two carry-over cases from the hearing officer’s meeting on Monday 13 June.

  • Joel Beery’s request for a different permit to approve an existing deck has been approved, but he has yet to seek approval.
  • David Hartman’s request for a variance to allow for the construction of an annex, a paved patio and an in-ground pool 13 feet from the water’s edge was granted, subject to neighbor approval.
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