Commissioners simplify ordinances

Apr. 22—GOSHEN — After some debate, the Elkhart County Commissioners agreed on a revision of an ordinance that will combine zoning and subdivision control ordinances across the county.

Elkhart County Director of Planning and Development Mae Kratzer said as the result of about a year and a half of collaboration efforts, the department has also streamlined the format of the ordinance to make it easier for the community and developers to understand and includes updated visual representations as well.

Kratzer also said the streamlining process also included four major content changes. The first is a 7-1 variance requirement for the Board of Zoning Appeals, the second is the removal of a dwelling square footage minimum previously required, the third permits chickens "by right" in an A-1 zoning district, and the last disallows dedications of administrative and minor subdivisions when the property is in residential use.

A public hearing was held on the change and by, and large, the chicken change was of the most concern.

"We've seen a lot of requests, for years and years in front of our BZA, and we approve them continuously," Kratzer said.

The rule that will go into effect is that properties with less than half an acre of land in an A-1 zoning district will be permitted to own up to three chickens. Those with half an acre to 1.5 acres, would be permitted up to six chickens. For those with up to three acres, 12 chickens would be allowed. From there, as before, anyone with three acres or more is permitted to own any number of agricultural animals.

Zeb Wall, of Elkhart, pleaded for commissioners to reconsider the chicken ordinance, calling it a public health issue. He told commissioners and the public in attendance that his wife became severely allergic to chickens due to exposure to chickens his neighbors had about four years ago. The problems became so severe that she can no longer eat or be near them, and the family had to move to another area.

"I would ask that you wouldn't loosen these rules," Wall said. "This is a health matter."

The statute does not stand for any other type of lot. Anyone in a residential zoning district would need to get permission from the BZA. City ordinances and homeowners association covenants will still hold for those under their jurisdictions.

Kratzer added that anyone who isn't sure what their zoning is or has a concern or complaint should contact the Board of Zoning Appeals, as the department is complaint driven.

Commissioners approved the changes to the ordinance.

"I think part of the problem is balancing the presumptions of punitive versus protecting the county, which is also our responsibility as well," said Commissioner Suzie Weirick. "Whether it's from unnecessary spends on litigations, whether it is making sure that the majority of residents are protected, and that's what the ordinance does. It protects the majority of residents."

Changes will become effective June 1.


—Commissioners approved the performance bond and the agreement with Niblock Excavating for the C.R. 20 and C.R. 37 improvement projects. The company had the lowest responsive bid for the projects at $2,119,486.70.

—Commissioners approved the Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office Stop Violence Grant for $31,000. The grant helps fund one of the deputy prosecuting attorney positions as well as training funds and operating supplies.

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at or at 574-538-2065.