PENDLETON — With a focus on what the Pendleton of tomorrow will look and feel like, Pendleton Town Council passed a sweeping almost 250-page ordinance that overhauls zoning and subdivision regulations and more.
“This ordinance that we’re looking at tonight … is probably one of the most important ordinances we’ve done since I’ve been on the council,” Council President Chet Babb said prior to a 5-0 approval of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
Babb’s been a councilman for more than 11 years.
The document’s overarching stated intent is to “promote the public health, safety and general welfare,” with a list of more specific goals, including: guiding future growth and development; protecting and conserving the value of land, buildings and other improvements; avoiding scattered and uncontrolled subdivision of land; establishing reasonable standards and procedures for subdivisions; preventing the pollution of air and water; and encouraging wise use and management of natural
resources to preserve the integrity, stability, natural beauty and topography. (See related box for more details.)
Kayla Hassett, the town’s planning director, said she was proud to present the document to the council “after a very long process.
“This is a document that controls our zoning, our subdivision ordinance, uses that are allowed in the town, land uses, things like that, so it’s really the planning department’s guiding legislation.
“It’s the most important document that (town planner) Hannah (Urbanski) and I utilize on a daily basis, when someone comes in and says ‘where can I put my yard barn,’ ‘how tall can my fence be,’ ‘how close to the road can my house be,’ ‘how wide can my driveway be.’ Those are all things that are covered in this document.”
K.K. Gerhart-Fritz, a town consultant who helped prepare the UDO, said the final product — which was a collaborative effort involving the town, a nine-member steering committee, focus group meetings and public feedback — gives teeth to many plans the town has in place.
“We did a lot of research on your plan recommendations — comprehensive plan, bicycle/pedestrian master plan, downtown plan, thoroughfare plan — all of these plans are policy documents, so they’re not enforceable,” Gerhart-Fritz said. “So to turn that into enforce-ability, we have to take what the recommendations are from those plans and actually make them local ordinances. So now that was a lot of what we did, was say, ‘Well how do we translate that into this ordinance?’
“So that’s how we kind of approached it. We ended up with a 10-chapter document that’s been out for public review for the last month.”
ordinance/ for links to the UDO.)
More zoning districts
Gerhart-Fritz said a large part of the UDO reflects analysis and steering committee discussion of zoning districts, and “lessons learned.”
“In the past, the town had a planned unit development option, which is essentially the developer writing their own zoning district,” she said. “They write all their standards as part of that. And it has not worked out well for this town and for many other towns. It’s meant to be a special case kind of thing for mixed use development or something really unusual … and it became a way of avoiding going to the board of zoning appeals, essentially.
“So part of what we ended up doing was eliminating that, but introducing more zoning districts, so that if somebody comes in, they have to follow one of the town’s zoning districts that’s set forth what the town’s standards are very clearly.”
In addition to clarity,
Gerhart-Fritz said, the steering committee wanted there to be choices among the standards. To meet architectural standards, “you pick so many from a list, for example,” she said.
Also, “there was a lot of discussion with our steering committee that things have changed, too. And, like, you had one planned business zoning district. Well, commercial is very different these days; you have big boxes, you have mom and pop neighborhood-scale commercial, and we needed more districts to deal with that. We needed more than one planned industrial district — you needed a light one and a heavy one — just lots of different things.
“So, there are a lot more zoning districts now than what you had.”
One of the 18 districts in the UDO — Residential Core Conservancy — is aimed at maintaining the look and feel of well-established homes.
“One of the biggest things we heard from the steering committee is we need to protect Pendleton’s unique character,” Gerhart-Fritz said. “That was something we heard over and over.
“So, we did some different things that we don’t always get to do. One of them was a new zoning district for the housing in the downtown area, the older housing.
It “requires basically, if you’re going to tear a house down or you’re going to build on an empty lot, you need to match the scale and form of what’s around you. You have to have the same average setback. If everyone has a front porch, you have a front porch, so we had an architect on our committee and we all agreed that we didn’t want to go as far to say you have to have a certain architectural style, but the form needs to fit in, the scale needs to fit in.
And so much more
The UDO aims to fix problems of the past and deal with issues that are new or foreseeable, Gerhart-Fritz said.
• “There were a lot of disconnects with everything from case law from the supreme court, on signs, to incorrect citations, with state law, to all kinds of different things. So that is an important thing to fix as part of this, too.”
• She said the group looked at requests that repeatedly go to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals and are granted, and considered “how do we address those so we don’t just have this step that people go through all the time.”
• Gerhart-Fritz said the UDO addresses “a lot of new land uses that have popped up,” such as solar and wind power regulations.
• The ordinance also introduces some new best practices, she said, such as establishing a process that enables commercial developments to expand parking in phases, to avoid unnecessary rainwater runoff.
• The group “also beefed up landscaping,” she said. “In this community trees are very important; we heard that loud and clear. So, there are a lot more landscaping, front yard trees required, that kind of thing, than what you had in the past.”
• The UDO also introduces new processes. Previously, there was one subdivision process. Now there are different processes for different-size subdivisions, and for the first time options for commercial/industrial subdivisions.
• The ordinance sets standards for things such as for signage, she noted. Other standards govern lighting, storage and pond construction.
• And there’s a whole chapter dealing with existing development that doesn’t conform to the ordinance. “If you tear it down and want to rebuild it, then you have to follow the new rules,” she said. “If it burns down more than 50%, then you have to rebuild it in the new way. If it burns down only 25%, you can go back the way you were.”
Steering committee member Marcy DeShong of Midwest Remodeling Services said the UDO affects everyone, and that the committee worked hard to find common ground to the benefit of all.
“We didn’t come together and all just agree on the same thing,” DeShong said. “There was just lots of different minds coming together, and really hashed through a lot of this with a lot of heart … we decided at the beginning that we wanted to come to a consensus. … We wanted to be able to come to a meeting like this and not have anybody standing up and saying, ‘Well, I didn’t agree with this.’
“So, we really did work, and we really did compromise, and we came up with things that we felt like were good for the future. And we tried to look into the future with parts of it.”
Councilman Bob Jones said he read through the whole ordinance and liked what he saw.
“It’s a good piece of work — you guys did a very thorough job tying this together,” Jones said.
Jones said one of the things he likes is the importance placed on green space.
“There are specific guidelines to go with,” he said prior to approval. “It does put the town in control, for lack of better words, of going forward. A deep-
pocketed developer can come in and buy a couple hundred acres, and they say ‘this is what I’m going to do;’ if we pass this, it sets up specific guidelines, a developer can look at that, and if they don’t find something to go with they can look elsewhere. So, it puts us in a good position for the destiny of the town going forward.”
Babb said a lot has changed since many of the rules were last updated more than 20 years ago.
The UDO, while it won’t eliminate all disagreements, does create a clear set of rules that, ultimately, aren’t set in stone.
“I mean, now a resident can come in, a resident, all the rules are wrote down, and we can change them, if we need to,” Babb said. “I’m very big on what they done.
“Kayla’s worked on this for more than two years, I’ve preached about it for two years, fighting with different businesses that don’t agree, and we didn’t have any set rules. And this’ll take it away.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
The intent of this UDO is to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of the jurisdiction, and more specifically to:
1. Accomplish the purposes of IC 36-7-4 series: Local Planning and Zoning; and further such other purposes as are stated hereinafter within specific provisions of this UDO;
2. Guide future growth and development in accordance with the comprehensive planning process.
3. Provide for adequate air, light, and privacy and to prevent undue congestion and overcrowding of the land.
4. Protect and conserve the value of land, buildings, and other improvements upon the land, and to minimize the conflicts among the uses of land and building.
5. Guide public and private policy and action in order to assure adequate and efficient transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks, drainage, and other public requirements and facilities.
6. Avoid scattered and uncontrolled subdivision of land that would result in an excessive expenditure of public funds for the supply of community services.
7. Establish reasonable standards of design and minimum requirements for the creation, installation, and improvement of physical facilities which are, or will be, maintained for the benefit of general public.
8. Establish reasonable standards and procedures for subdivisions and re-subdivisions, in order to further the orderly layout and use of land; and to ensure proper legal descriptions and marking of subdivided land.
9. Prevent the pollution of air and water; provision of drainage facilities and the safeguarding of the water table; and the encouragement of wise use and management of natural resources in order to preserve the integrity, stability, natural beauty and topography, and the value of land.
10. Administer these regulations by defining the powers and duties of approval authorities, and the manner and form of making, filing, and processing of any plat.