PLAN COMMISSION – RESIDENCY PRECLUDES MY PARTICIPATION

I recently submitted my application to Human Resources for two different positions: the City Plan Commission and the County Plan Commission. I first started thinking about participating on the county plan commission during the Cedar Creek debacle.

I called today to check on whether my application had been received and was transferred to the Mayor’s Office. I had to leave a message and figured I would have to call again to get an answer. I was pleasantly surprised when, later in the afternoon, I received a call from an employee in the Mayor’s office. I was not at my desk, so the individual left a message.

I am qualified to sit on the city plan commission but not the county plan commission. The reason? In order to be a member of the Allen County Plan Commission, I must live in an unincorporated part of the county. That leaves out anyone who lives within the Fort Wayne City limits.

I researched the nine members to see if all lived in an unincorporated part of the county. Most fell within the criteria, but one did not. Gonzalee Martin appears to live within the city; however, a loophole allows members who do not live in an unincorporated area. That loophole is that membership is based on certain positions within the country rather than residency. So, a city resident can be a member of the Plan Commission if that person holds an office that automatically puts him or her on the commission.

Five of the nine members are appointed by the Allen County Board of Commissioners. Three additional members sit based on their positions within county government – the loophole positions. Those are the county surveyor, the county extension educator, and a township trustee. The final member is from the Board of Commissioners.

The following are the Plan Commission’s responsibilities:

  • The commission is responsible for the Allen County Comprehensive Plan and its implementation through the Allen County Zoning Ordinance, the Subdivision Control Ordinance, and various policies and practices.
  • The Plan Commission controls the type, location, and timing of development in unincorporated Allen County and works with the City of Woodburn, and the Towns of Grabill, Huntertown, and Monroeville.

The nine current members are as follows:

  • Charles J. Bodenhafer, President (also on Board of Zoning Appeals)
  • Allan D. Frisinger, County Surveyor, Vice President
  • Susan L. Hoot
  • Paul Moss, County Council
  • Bill Brown, County Commissioner
  • Harold Kleine, Township Trustee
  • Gonzalee Martin, County Extension Office
  • Ken Neumeister (also on Board of Zoning Appeals)
  • Robert W. Young

Susan Hoot has withdrawn due to her run for county council, and that is the spot that I sought to obtain. The commission has to have even distribution of political party representatives. I am disappointed that I do not qualify – even for consideration.

Allen County Sprawl

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Part of the Plan Commission’s role involves zoning through the Allen County Zoning ordinance. Interestingly enough, the Zoning Appeals Board includes two members – Ken Neumeister and Charles Bodenhafer – who also sit on the Plan Commission. The five members of the Zoning Board are:

  • Ken Neumeister, Chairman (also on Plan Commission)
  • Ronald L. Swart, Vice Chairman
  • Thomas C. Black, Jr.
  • Charles J. Bodenhafer (also on Plan Commission)
  • Jacob Delagrange

I find it quite disturbing that members of the Plan Commission charged with implementation of the Allen County Zoning Ordinance also sit on the Board of Zoning Appeals which does the following in relationship to the zoning ordinance:

  • provides flexibility to the Allen County Zoning Ordinance by allowing exceptions to the Zoning Ordinance under certain circumstances.
  • may allow land uses not otherwise permitted if Zoning Ordinance standards create a hardship for a property owner that relates to the property.
  • serves as the forum to appeal certain planning and zoning decisions.

Allen County currently has about 350,000 population with a little over 250,000 located within the Fort Wayne city limits. The county population – minus Fort Wayne – is a little over 98,000. Thus, the criteria for sitting on the commission precludes 71% of the county’s population from participating in decisions that impact not only the county but also the city.

The criteria imposed work in contradiction to the goals of reinvesting in downtown and revitalizing the urban portions of Fort Wayne. The plan commission is currently top-heavy with business interests that rely on new construction and an expanding subdivision plan. Since commission members come from the county’s population, their view is to county issues with little concern to city goals. Add to that the preponderance of those with construction interests and little incentive to control sprawl exists.

The idea that individuals can sit on two bodies that overlap in duties calls to mind the old issue of the fox guarding the chicken coop. So far the fox has pretty much had its way, but it is about time that someone with environmental interests at heart takes a seat on the Plan Commission. Since I am precluded, I hope someone out there will step up and throw his or her hat in the ring.

We need a feisty chicken on the Commission.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Allen County Government, Democrats, Environment, Fort Wayne, Local Government and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to PLAN COMMISSION – RESIDENCY PRECLUDES MY PARTICIPATION

  1. Phil Marx says:

    County Surveyor and Trustee are elected positions. Which are you going to run for?

  2. Jeff Pruitt says:

    Charlotte,

    That is unfortunate that you don’t qualify as you would’ve been a fantastic member. Hopefully an environmentally friendly person from outside the city will step up and submit their name.

    The Plan Commission is an important board and I’m surprised that the Democratic Party leadership has not found anyone to fill the spot…

  3. clint jenkins says:

    Can a person be environmentaly friendly and still live 30 feet from a river? What are you concerned about envirnomentaly? Remember I have more clout than Al Gore on the Environment. I think if you bring up environmental concerns, they must be established. You could move and then qualify for the position.

  4. J. Q. Taxpayer says:

    Clint,

    As one who often debates Charlotte on many issues (oh, and agree on some) I will say she is 150% environmentaly friendly. I do not find her an extreme environmentalist.

    I see her more as one wanting to protect the environment but one of reason.

    The reason I would find Charlotte good for any board is she researches her view point, LISTENS to others with facts, and she will fully explain her view point. She would not hide from issues or just vote “yes” or “no” without sharing her reason. I just wish the entire city and county had these kind of people serving on them.

    The Democrats in power should strongly consider appointing her to some board that she has an interest in. She would do her party and the people of area well.

  5. Clint:

    I could move, but my home was here before I was ever born. I did not put it here, but I love it dearly as those who know me understand. The only way I would move would be if the home were destroyed, and I was forced to move.

    Living 30 feet from the river has given me an appreciation for many things, one of which is the nature of the river itself. Thieme Drive also runs along the river just across from my home, so I have done research on the historic past of Thieme Drive.

    It was named after Theodore Thieme, who was one of Fort Wayne’s early entrepreneurs. He owned Wayne Knitting Mills, which became famous throughout the U.S for its hosiery (not the kind we know today since it was the early part of the 20th century). He also donated to Fort Wayne his huge home on West Berry – it now houses the Arena Dinner Theater.

    Thieme Drive was part of a parks and boulevard plan prepared in 1911 by George Kessler for the City of Fort Wayne. Kessler’s completed works throughout the country are considered worthy of protection, thus Thieme Drive is listed on the National Historic Register and receives protection. I was lucky to find a hand-autographed biography of Theodore Thieme at Hyde Brothers bookstore on Wells. Of course, I snapped it up.

    I have worked for several years now to fight the building of a wall along Thieme Drive. A wall would destroy Thieme Drive and its historic nature as well as impact the environment of the river itself. All trees would be cut down and a 10-foot wall erected which would obstruct the view of the river. This is one of the only river views left in the City. The trees and the riverbank provide habitat for many small animals.

    I see the constant building of walls and levees as detrimental to the environment. When one builds a wall in one area confining the river, it will simply seek another location where it will flood. Walling in rivers is just like wearing a girdle. The girdle only rearranges what it contains – walls and levees do the same thing.

    To me, environmental concerns exist where ever we are. So moving would give me the ability to participate in county issue, but staying here also provides the opportunity to work on environmental concerns. I also put my name in for the city plan commission.

    One of my environmental concerns as to the county is the sprawl that is taking place. Each time a mall, shopping center, or housing subdivision is built, it impacts the runoff of water by decreasing surface available for absorption. New construction also destroys habitat which must be removed to build.

    I believe more effort should be going toward encouraging in-fill of areas already available – some which have existing housing and some which don’t.

  6. Phil, Jeff, and J.Q.:

    Thank you for your comments and encouragement!

    I also applied for the city plan commission, which would also give me the opportunity to work on important issues.

    I am not sure when I will hear anything since those on the city commission may be there for some time.

  7. kent strock says:

    I agree with you 150%, but as long as the Republicans continue their 60 year hold in the county there is not much that can be done. Sorry to take a cheap shot but, but Republicans are all for competition unless it comes to power and the environment.

  8. kent strock says:

    Phil,

    Give me a break! Nobody but a Republican who contributes and feeds at the tit of the Shine machine gets elected. Come on, don’t be so silly. Growth has to be severly limited and the money isn’t gonna run uphill.

  9. Scott Greider says:

    Great post and rebuttal, Charlotte.

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