News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 30, 2012

READERS’ FORUM: Aug. 30, 2012


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Our county did not follow law’s intent

I cannot believe that the Director of Area Planning, Jeremy Weir, is that naive. He must understand that the posting of a sign on the petitioned property is woefully inadequate for notification to surrounding property owners apprising them of an impending zoning petition coming before the commissioners.

An unscrupulous, unethical developer could simply place the signs facing the wrong way, toward U.S. 41, where no one could read it driving by at 50 mph. Or place them in the middle of the 100 acres where the weeds were four feet high, making reading the notice impossible. He could also raise his hand and swear on a stack of Bibles he sent letters via first-class mail.

I have asked Weir for a photo and a notarized affidavit attesting to the existence of the sign, which he has failed to produce. Which leads me to believe it did not exist.

Now he admits the process needs reworked but still wants to fall short of legislative intent. Vigo County Area Planning was established in accordance with Indiana Code 36-7-4. Under Subdivision Control Regulations IV in the Vigo County Ordinance, which, by the way, is not a PUD, but is used as such because Weir did not know how to administer a PUD. Subsection iii provides for due notice to interested parties at least 10 days before the date set for hearing.

IC 36-7-4-604 reads in part: (c) The plan commission shall also provide for due notice to interested parties at least 10 days before the date set for the hearing. The commission shall by rule determine who are interested parties, how notice is to be given to interested parties, and who is required to give that notice. When a statute uses the word “shall”, it is mandatory. “Interested parties” are those persons that could be aggrieved by a zoning change.

I have contacted 41 of the central counties in Indiana, including Vigo, and 39 of those counties require notice to interested parties be given via certified mail. Weir contends that he alone has the discretion as to whether he gives notice to interested parties or not. This is simply not true.

It is obvious the legislative intent of notification is meant to accomplish exactly that; notify. Weir states his reasoning for not requiring certified mail is persons would not sign for receipt. There is only one way to be certain an interested party receives notification and that is the green card attached to the notification letter signed at receipt.

If Weir is interested in bringing Vigo County out of the Dark Ages, he’ll insist on the notification process going forward will be a display ad (not in the classified), which describes the property in the common language used for the property, not parcel numbers and notice to adjoining property owners to a depth of 600 feet via certified mail, with notification cost to be borne by petitioner.

My late mother said it best, “the proof is in the pudding”. When this farm field was rezoned to accommodate two-story apartments there was not a single remonstrator that stood in opposition.

Not a single person from 400 homes that are now tragically impacted and 100 percent opposed, echoed a dissent.

One of the purposes of zoning laws and procedures was to keep the department heads and elected officials from colluding with a greedy developer. This can only be accomplished by following the State Code, not the county’s interpretation of same.

— Rick Wheeler

Terre Haute