Waterloo annexation plan moves ahead

February 28th, 2017

By Mark Murdock | KPC News - The Star

Waterloo can get to work on development of the land it plans to annex.

The DeKalb County Commissioners transferred jurisdiction of the area, west of Interstate 69, from the county to the Waterloo Redevelopment Commission in an ordinance passed at Monday’s meeting.

As a result, Waterloo can extend its tax increment financing district to cover the area to be annexed. The town won’t benefit with any new funds for a few years, but can use its existing TIF funds toward planned developments, primarily to run water lines to the area.

American Petroleum Inc. of Middlebury plans to greatly expand the truck stop at the interchange of I-69 and U.S. 6, and the company has donated $250,000 to the town to help with the utility project. The town has money to match that sum in TIF funds, which are administered by the Waterloo Redevelopment Commission.

The town had hoped to annex the property soon with a super-voluntary annexation, but fell short of the 100 percent cooperation needed. Waterloo instead will do a voluntary annexation, which requires signatures from 51 percent of property owners or those controlling 75 percent of the assessed value. That is expected to take place in October or November.

The commissioners also gave an OK to the county comprehensive plan, which had been approved by the county Plan Commission Feb. 15. Chris Gaumer, director and zoning administrator for the DeKalb County Department of the Developmental Services, gave the commissioners a brief overview of the plan.

The plan is a blueprint for the Plan Commission and county government to make decisions to manage growth and protect infrastructure in the county. It aims to encourage economic development while preserving cultural and environmental resources in hopes of making the county an attractive place to work, live and enjoy a strong quality of life.

Attracting industry and focusing growth along key transportation corridors such as I-69 or downtowns are among key strategies. Taking advantage of proximity to northward growth from Fort Wayne is also important.

The last comprehensive plan was done in 2004. Gaumer said comprehensive plans normally are revisited every 10-20 years.

Commissioners also went over a rough draft of a new septic ordinance, presented by Cathy Manuel of the county Health Department.

The ordinance would follow Indiana code and require anyone building on ground with a property line 300 feet or less from a sewer line to hook into the sewer. The owner could get a waiver by proving the expense of connecting with the sewer line is 150 percent or more of the cost of installing a new septic system. The property receiving the exemption would be inspected every five years.

Existing septic systems not more than 20 years old, and which were inspected and granted permits by the county Health Department at the time they were installed, would not need to be replaced, provided they are still working.

Discussion centered around a minimum of five net acres (not including rights of way or easements) for a septic system to be installed. The current Unified Development Ordinance sets the minimum at two acres.

Along with the 5 acres, the property would need a set-aside area that provides a soil profile analysis, a boundary survey and a topographical map and be deemed suitable for an onsite sewage system.

“One of the reasons I’m going for five acres and the set-aside is to make sure people have the room they need to do this not only today, but 25 years from now,” Manuel said.

Deetz said locking in a set minimum could cause problems, since land can have different soil consistencies. He said a 2-acre plot could possibly handle several septic systems, while a much larger plot might be able to hold only one.

He said areas such as Fairfield Township are unlikely to ever have sewer service and may need extra consideration.

“If somebody out there has a half-acre or a five-acre lot with a house, and they have no place to go, that becomes an unsellable property,” Deetz said. “We have a lot of blighted properties in DeKalb County. I don’t want to do anything to encourage more lots out there that cannot be used for housing, partially for economics and partially for land use. We’ve got this chunk out now that’s just going to be green space.”

County Attorney Jim McCanna asked if a property were a tear-down, and a new house could be built on a smaller lot with room for a septic system, would the construction be allowed?

A septic system could be put there “if the soil and the contours will allow a septic system,” Manuel said.

“There are a lot of one-acre plots in the county we need to be able to address. I don’t think it needs to be grandfathered, I just want to make sure we’re allowing everybody to have a viable option if at all possible,” Deetz said.

Deetz added that more discussion would be necessary, and that the ordinance probably wouldn’t come up for a vote for several weeks.

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