Any expectations of heated debate over proposed changes to the town of Culver’s wind ordinance at last week’s Culver plan commission meeting were unfounded, though that’s not to say there was no hint of frustration on the part of some on the commission.
The discussion, part of the May 20 plan commission meeting, grew from an ordinance on which the commission worked – including public hearings – over the course of the past year, which among other topics regulated wind energy conversion systems intended for private use (larger, commercial-use wind turbines were already banned at the county level). The town of Culver currently has no ordinance regulating use of the systems, which are primarily represented by wind mills or wind turbines, and the commission’s proposed ordinance dealt with setbacks and restrictions on size and other attributes of the devices.
At a meeting earlier in May, the Culver town council – the body which approves or disapproves ordinances proposed by the plan commission – voted to reject the ordinance as proposed (though the council okayed those portions of the ordinance which did not deal with wind energy systems), and also to send a recommendation back to the commission to ban all wind energy conversion devices entirely, a move pressed for by many in the nearly full audience at the council meeting.
However, the council reversed its position at its last meeting in response to concerns raised by Union Township resident Marlene Mahler, who emphasized wind mills are used by farmers for watering cattle where other methods are cost prohibitive, and many such devices are too small to be visible eyesores to most residents.
Plan commission president Barry McManuay, at the May 20 meeting, explained Mahler’s concerns to other commission members and asked town council member Bill Githens, seated in the audience, why the council voted to reject the proposed ordinance.
Githens said he felt the issue was “a definition problem.”
Audience member Hank Bilsland, a Culver resident and one of the most vocal opponents of wind turbines at the council meeting, said there was “a lot of resistance” to the 140-foot tower height allowed in the plan commission’s proposed ordinance. Bilsland distributed wind turbine photos to commission members. He also suggested solar energy systems were a more beneficial alternative to wind energy.
McManuay noted the commission had discussed size restrictions and setbacks “throughout the process” of planning the ordinance, and had intended to make some wind systems legal without infringing on people’s rights. He added that, given the restrictions, “there will not be too awful many (wind mills) in town.”
Bilsland expressed concern over some areas of town adjacent to areas where the towers could be erected according to rules laid out in the ordinance, though Culver building inspector Russ Mason noted any proposed towers would still have to go before Culver’s board of zoning appeals and would not be guaranteed approval.
Commission member Ralph Winters called the council’s decision to send back the ordinance “a real step backwards.”
“We’ve talked for some years about wanting to extend our zoning district, and we’ve talked for several years about being in line with the county (regarding zoning restrictions and regulations). We’re going to lose any opportunity to extend our zoning area (without compatibility).”
Winters also criticized those outside the current town limits who are resisting proposals to annex portions of land just outside the western limits into town, suggesting some made their living in the town but don’t want to pay their “fair share,” even though they expect EMS, fire, and police services to their properties.
Some discussion ensued regarding the sequence of events leading to the town council’s latest directive to the commission, though McManuay pointed out the matter wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda and should be tabled. He added it could be added to the agenda for the June plan commission meeting. It was discussed that the council and plan commission may sit down for a work session on the matter in the interim.
SUGAR MAGNOLIA BAKERY
The commission also heard from Kelly Statczar of Sugar Magnolia Bakery and Cafe, which is currently in the works in the former Cultice building at 103 S. Main Street in downtown Culver.
Statczar said she and her husband Troy have been renovating the building, whose space encompasses about 44 by 19 feet according to architect Dave Kaiser, also in the audience. He said the only structural changes in the building will be the addition of windows on its north side. Statczar said the second floor former apartment will likely become an apartment for rent again, though it’s currently being used as storage.
Mason pointed out the business will probably need an okay from the town council as well, since its landing and ramp will be in the town’s sidewalk right of way.
The plan commission voted to approve Statczar’s proposal.
In response to query from commission members, Statczar said the bakery’s offerings will run “the gamut,” from warm bread in the morning to donuts, pies, brownies, and a variety of breads, with sandwiches offered seasonally. She said the bakery will also offer catering and “to go” picnics, as well as soup and “good coffee and espresso.”
The business’ moniker, Statczar explained, comes from a Grateful Dead song and was her own nickname going back “a very long time ago.”
Statczar acknowledged the limited seating of four stools and a small table dictates largely walk-in business, though she said she believes Heritage Park, located next door, will be utilized a great deal more with the bakery in place. She said she and her three children will handle cleanup of extra refuse generated there.
Regarding a schedule of opening the bakery, Statczar said she had hoped to open by September, but due to the slow process of state approval for the business, it may be next spring or summer before Sugar Magnolia’s door is open to the public.
In other discussion, the plan commission heard from Culver Redevelopment Commission president Kathy Clark and CRC attorney Phil Faccenda, of Barnes and Thornburg, LLP, regarding expansion of Culver’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district. The district, the area within a city or a town deemed unlikely to attract private investment without some governmental assistance, allows reallocation of funds from property taxes to encourage investment within the district (the two took the matter to the Marshall County commissioners last week; see article this issue).
No additional taxes will be applied to taxpayers, said Clark, who added there will be a public hearing on the matter.
The plan commission reviewed the CRC’s amended (to add property) declaration and signed a resolution agreeing that it confirms with the town’s comprehensive plan and plans in general.
Attorney Jim Easterday brought several items to the commission, including a request – approved by the commission – to re-plat six parcels in two lots on property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Joyce, who intend to build a house in the middle of the combined lots, though present ordinance didn’t allow creating a lot of less than standard configuration (since the properties include former railroad property, the lot takes on an unusual shape, according to Easterday).
The commission also voted to send a positive recommendation back to the town council regarding abandoning a portion of Clover Street which was never developed beyond a narrow strip of grass west of Clymax Street. The property owner, according to Mason, would be affected by the 25-foot setback required off Clover Street, and so requests the town abandon the strip, with each half of it going to the property owner on each side. Easement would be granted to the town as needed, he added.
The commission also approved correcting a technical error in the legal description of the Rasmussen subdivision it had already voted upon in February, at Easterday’s request.
During his building commissioner’s report, Mason told the commission nine building permits had been issues since last month, with the most significant one a major project to add a ground-level entrance to the front of Culver Academies’ Huffington Library.
Mason noted the town council discussed, at a recent work session, the feasibility of going ahead with annexation of properties along State Road 17 west of Culver, with no adverse comments from the council. The first step, according to the town attorney, will be putting together an educational plan for property owners in the affected area.
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