by Amie Sites
Logansport Planning Commission members recommended approval of a proposed amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance at a special meeting Tuesday morning.
The special meeting was scheduled after the commission at a previous meeting fell short of the votes needed to approve the measure.
Arin Shaver, director of the Logansport-Cass County planning department, said there was some confusion over what the meeting was about. Shaver said some people seemed disappointed when they realized the meeting would not include public discussion, but she stressed the planning commission was simply making a recommendation.
“The final decision to pass any zoning ordinance is in the hands of the city council,” Shaver said.
Mercedes Brugh, chairwoman of Little Turtle Waterway, was not happy with the recommendation.
The existing rules downtown allow only commercial apartments, which are apartments on the upper floors of commercial buildings. Other types of housing require a special exception, which would mean an appearance before the Logansport Board of Zoning Appeals.
Brugh objected to eliminating that requirement.
“Changing the rules like this eliminates public discussion,” she said. “I object to this because people who have invested their time and money into downtown should have a say.”
The BZA, she said, provided that forum.
Bill Champion, president of the planning commission, said putting senior housing had been talked about since 2009.
“It’s always been the plan,” he said. “It would be a great way to get people downtown.”
Dave Herman, a former member of the Logansport Redevelopment Commission, voiced disappointment in the recommendation.
“We’re all dancing around pretending there isn’t something happening there,” Herman said. “We’re all for growth, development and senior living, but not at the expense of two parks, Little Turtle Waterway, the farmer’s market and festivals.”
Herman had been among the redevelopment commission members who voted to spend $50,000 to buy the former Salvation Army property that would have been part of the rejected senior housing project. The plan then had been to use the property for restroom facilities that would have been used by visitors to the farmers market lot and nearby Little Turtle Waterway Plaza.
Mayor Ted Franklin has said he hopes instead to use the land for development. He said he was pleased by the planning commission’s vote.
“I think it sends a good message,” Franklin said. “They’re at least willing to look at development downtown and all around Logansport.”
Franklin said the city must explore new options to avoid staying stagnant.
“We can’t survive the way we have in the past without bringing new business to town,” Franklin said. “This is a step in that direction.”
Shaver said senior housing will most likely be discussed at the December city council meeting. She invited residents to make their voices heard.
“City council has the last say,” Shaver said. “That’s where residents can go to voice their concern.”
Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.