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November 18, 2012

PUBLIC FORUM: Planners should reject proposal

Regarding changing the rules for downtown housing: The way it is now, if developers want to build new downtown housing that does not have the required parking or does not have a commercial first floor, they must ask the Board of Zoning Appeals to bend the rules for them. The BZA hearing provides a way for people to influence their local government. Recently a building was proposed at Fourth and Market that needed the BZA’s permission to bend the rules. Downtown business owners, along with people involved in our many festivals, used this opportunity to speak against the location for this project. The only people who spoke in favor of the location were the developers and the mayor. The BZA voted it down.

Now the plan commission may change the rules for downtown parking and that new construction has a commercial first floor. The commission will have a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday to consider these changes. If these changes pass, then such questions will no longer come before the BZA.

I object because government should include people in these decisions, and that is what the BZA hearing allows.

If you are interested in planning ahead, you may know that Logansport has a “comprehensive plan,” an over-arching vision for how we want our city to develop. If a proposal doesn’t fit into the plan, then I think people should have a say about that, which is what the BZA hearing allows.

Of particular interest to me, as a Little Turtle Waterway volunteer, is the comprehensive plan’s support for an “activity center or focus downtown.”

Obviously Little Turtle Waterway isn’t big enough to be that “activity center” for downtown, because our six or so annual festivals spill onto Melbourne Avenue, Fourth Street and the city-owned properties at Fourth and Market.  These properties — the Farmer’s Market lot, the gazebo park, and Heritage Park — now function together with Little Turtle Waterway as Logansport’s downtown “activity center.” “Together” is an important word, because none of the pieces are large enough by themselves to be that downtown “activity center.”

Letting a developer have this public property would mean increased tax revenues for the city, but consider whether that is a good trade.  

I ask the plan commission to vote against changing these rules, because these rules give citizens a chance to comment to the BZA on particular projects.

Mercedes Brugh, chair

Little Turtle Waterway Corp.

 

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