WARSAW — It’s a discussion which has been repeated at numerous Kosciusko County Area Planning Commission meetings in recent years. When petitions for roadway vacations are presented, often near lakes, it is debated who actually owns the land under the roadway, riparian rights and whether or not it will hinder or impede access to the lake for the public.
The most recent petition presented to the APC is for Jeff Heffelinger to vacate a 20-foot platted roadway in the Shore Acres subdivision at Sechrist Lake. The platted roadway is off EMS B61 Lane.
Dan Richard, area planning director, noted vacating the roadway would affect access to a public beach and through the years erosion has already limited what beach is available. Richard said the original plat clearly states the roadway is not to be encroached upon by private interests.
He said a shed sitting in the roadway is in violation of a county ordinance and the petitioner is seeking the vacation in lieu of moving the shed.
Steve Snyder, an attorney representing Heffelinger, said erosion makes no difference and “case law is quite clear on that.” He said public ways only give access to the public and are not owned by the public. “We would not be preventing access to the beach,” he said.
Lee Shaw, who lives nearby, remonstrated against the petition and said the petitioner is encroaching upon access to a public beach. A former planner himself in Delaware County, he said he is concerned access to public beaches is decreasing due to private interests.
Bob Conley of the planning commission said he could see no compelling reason to approve the vacation. Eventually, after considerable discussion including the possibility of only vacating 10 feet of the roadway, the APC unanimously recommended denial of the petition. It will be considered by the county commissioners at their Dec. 18 meeting.
In other business the planning commission recommended approval for Edward Woenker to rezone .689 acres from agricultural to commercial on the west side of SR 13, about a quarter mile south of CR 500N and just south of North Webster in Tippecanoe Township.
Before considering the petition, the APC approved a motion to proceed with the petition contingent upon Woenker signing the application for his petition, which he had not done prior to the meeting. Before the meeting concluded, though, he did arrive to sign his application.
Spencer O’Dell of AR Engineering said the intent is to develop the property commercially. He did not specify the type of commercial development, but it was later noted AR Engineering has developed several Dollar General stores in the area.
Since the property abuts a residential area on one side, it was noted some type of screening would be needed as a buffer. There is an existing tree line, part of which will remain, but some trees will be removed for a stormwater retention pond.
Approval was recommended with the condition green screening of some type is installed and the county commissioners will consider the petition at the Dec. 18 meeting.
Also, the APC approved a request by Isaiah 11 Ministries to be placed on an upcoming agenda of the county board of zoning appeals. Isaiah 11 operates a counseling center and animal rescue refuge on CR 100N, east of CR 650W near Atwood in Harrison Township. They want to be granted an exception to continue to operate on property zoned agricultural.