Warsaw Plan Commission will be tackling issues in 2015 according to Jeremy Skinner, city planner. Skinner briefly noted those issues during Monday evening’s commission meeting.
Just as important as those issues being tackled first, Skinner stated an ordinance regarding sexually oriented businesses will be looked at. “We will look at the existing ordinance we have,” he stated. “It will be a challenge. There are legal loop holes to consider. We will need an ordinance to support a legal challenge.”
Another area is guidelines for new streets and development, all facets of transportation within the city. He added the building and sign ordinance will also be revisited as there are a handful of residents interested in that ordinance.
While not officially ready, Skinner briefly reviewed construction activities last year in the city. He stated there were more building permits issued in 2014 compared to 2013 and the amount spent in construction was almost equal in 2014 to 2013. He pointed out there was $42 million spent in construction, $200,000 less in 2014 than 2013. This broke down to approximately $17 million in new construction and $25 million in commercial construction.
“We’re playing catch up in the housing market,” he stated, adding the city is in pretty good shape for residential growth, however he does not expect 2015 or 2016 to be as heavy handed in residential construction as the past three years. But “I don’t foresee us going back to what we saw in 2009, 2008.”
Commission member Jim Gast noted what he thought was a weak point in the building and planning department — enforcement of ordinances. “For many of our ordinances it seems to take an inordinate time (to get resolved) … get to the crux of the issue … is there a way to streamline this process this year?”
Skinner stated the department is as aggressive as it can be and does not know how it could be more aggressive. “There are six hearing officers,” he stated with nine hearings scheduled this year. He also explained the legal structure, which takes time.
Rick Keeven, commission member, asked if only one notice, instead of two, could be issued before final action. “We’re looking at three months or more for all the steps.”
Skinner explained the process and stated if they send a letter (for ordinance violation) and there is a response, communication begins and the property owner is given time to fix the situation prior to going before a hearing officer. It was also noted the hearing officer works with the property owner, if progress is shown. In a lot of cases, financial situations are the issue.
“Every case is different, that’s the challenge,” said Skinner. However, he noted when no response is heard from the violator, action is quicker. “We’re trying to work within the boundaries … .”
Skinner was also questioned on the procedure or follow through with a person who filed the complaint. He stated 360 plus violation letters were sent out last year. If the person filing the complaint asked to be kept in the loop he is, but many wish to remain anonymous.
During other business Tom Allen and David Baumgartner were sworn in for the incoming year. Allen and Keeven were also re-elected as president and vice president respectively.
The next scheduled meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9.