Culver's town council last week exercised its right to waive standard rules and adopt a new agricultural-based zoning designation for Culver, in an effort to resolve a recent controversy.
At a public hearing during its normal, Aug. 14 meeting, the council heard from Culver building commissioner Russ Mason who explained that Culver's plan commission had held a public hearing at the Culver Public ` recently, expecting a "huge turnout" which didn't materialize. He said the zoning ordinance, which will have to pass the plan commission following council approval, calls for three major zoning changes in Culver.
The first change pertains to recent controversy growing from Marshall County's efforts this year to clean up county and municipal jurisdictions. Specifically, county officials have worked with representatives of its various towns where part of a parcel lies within county jurisdiction, and part lies within a given municipality, to shift the parcel to one designation or another, depending on which jurisdiction includes the largest portion of the parcel.
Concern was raised in the Culver area that some properties currently residing in Marshall County and zoned for agricultural use, could be markedly limited in use should they be re-zoned as part of Culver, which has considerably more land use restrictions.
The Culver plan commission, Mason told the council, decided to resolve the issue by creating an agricultural zoning district for the town of Culver which in many ways would mirror Marshall County's. The new A1 designation would require parcels be a minimum of five acres and would require no limits on height of structures, among other specifications. Residents would need to apply to be in the district, said Mason.
Audience member Marlene Mahler asked several specific questions about the new district. Mason pointed out any current farming operations would be grandfathered in, so the requirements of the new district would only apply to operations new going forward.
He also added the new, proposed ordinance is available to read on the town's website, townofculver.org.
Another proposed change is the requirement that commercial or multi-family buildings add a key lockbox to the outside of the structure. Lockboxes, one of which is already in place at the Garden Court apartments on South Main Street, would give emergency personnel access to the building without having to force entry, in the event of an emergency.
The third change pertains to enforcement of waste and debris ordinances in the two-mile area outside Culver's zoning boundary, where Mason said up to now could not be enforced either by town or county officials.
A minor change, he added, related to restrictions on building in the lake district in a manner which would encroach on neighbors' visibility.
Also covered were requirements for a site review should a commercial property owner make a substantial change in use, such as from a restaurant to a manufacturing plant. Some discussion ensured, with Mason emphasizing that the change is partly meant to prevent property owners from abusing zoning boards to change use of a structure simply in order to profit from a higher selling price of the property.
He noted turning down a site plan is extremely rare.
CULVER INCOME SURVEY, COMMPREHENSIVE PLAN
In other discussion, the council heard from grant writer Shannon McLeod concerning the possibility of an income survey of Culver to make the town eligible for public grant funds. McLeod said in this age of cell phones, telephone surveys are usually non-productive, and postal mail surveys rarely derive comprehensive results. Instead, she suggested a door-to-door survey could be conducted.
Some council members expressed concern the incomes of some property owners rarely present through most of the calendar year could lead to false impressions in an income survey. McLeod said since the survey would likely take place in the coming months, "timing, from that perspective, works in your favor."
She also noted the specific projects in mind for funding could affect whose income is surveyed, since not all projects would affect the entire community. Property owners might not be a relevant factor in some projects where the renter is paying bills, such as water and sewer, she added.
Audience member Kathy Clark noted the hoped-for comprehensive plan for Culver -- a $30,000 to $50,000 expense which council members planned to help underwrite with grant funds -- would continue to be delayed by delays in pursuing an income survey. She noted the Culver Redevelopment Committee had agreed to contribute to the cost of the plan.
McLeod suggested, and the council agreed, to aim for a meeting of various concerned entities, including Culver's town manager, to discuss the income survey and grant planning, in September.
The council also waived the rules and passed on all three readings an ordinance prohibiting smoking in Culver's town park, as presented by town attorney Jim Clevenger, as well as the $100 fee for violations of the law. Council member Ed Pinder emphasized signs explaining the law and its fines should be prominently posted in the park.
DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION FUNDING
Utilities manager Bob Porter reported bids have come in for work this fall on Culver's downtown revitalization project and the cost is $23,000 higher than the engineering estimate received.
"It's very time sensitive," he said. "They're saying, 'You'll be okay if you wait `til this Thursday morning ."
He noted the construction end date is Nov. 23 for the project.
Discussion ensued among council members as to whether the funds could be taken from the town's general fund. Council member Lynn Overmyer, after it was noted the funds could derive from the rainy day or riverboat funds, suggested the council vote to split the cost with the Culver Redevelopment Committee, though councilman Bill Githens countered the decision as to whether to contribute the money belongs to the CRC, which was slated to meet the next day.
Audience member Ralph Winters, of the CRC, expressed concern that "people are looking at a bunch of money in the CRC fund and not much action, so we're going to do sidewalks, buy a clock, plant trees -- that's not really what the (CRC) money is for."
The CRC, he added, "should be looking at the big picture."
"I'm not against helping with this thing tomorrow," he said, "but I'm concerned."
Council member Ginny Munroe said she felt the CRC's projects so far have made sense, though she expressed agreement with Winters' concerns.
In the end, the council voted to draw the monies from whichever fund town clerk Karen Heim suggested, should the CRC not approve spending the money itself.
The council approved $5,600 for removal of around 20 trees damaged by recent storms and posing a safety hazard, as requested by town manager Dave Schoeff .
It was agreed the money could derive from the rainy day fund. Schoeff noted Culver's tree commission is technically $15,000 "in the hole," since the $6,000 per year allotted to the commission was voted upon but not recorded on paper in previous years' budgets. Schoeff suggested an additional appropriation at the end of the year to straighten out the matter.
The council voted -- with Githens and president Sally Ricciardi abstaining -- not to approve a request from a resident for a $355 credit from an $850 bill for lawn sprinkling. The soaker hose at the family's home had a major leak in it, noted Githens, who said the family was away all week while the sprinkler ran.
Council members agreed approval of the request could lead to a landslide of similar ones from other residents.
Approved was a request from fire chief Mike Grover for approval of an additional $1,000 towards a grass truck, since the originally chosen vehicle sold before the department could purchase it.
Also approved was $1592.35 to repair Culver's street sweeper, as well as $2,738 to pay L.L. Geans for seeding and topsoil in its Safe Routes to School sidewalk replacement program.
Schoeff was given permission by the council to investigate the possibility of increased access for local seniors to Marshall County Council on Ageing transportation, currently offered weekly in Culver. He said he had been asked to conduct a survey into the level of use increased service would receive in Culver.
Updates from various departments and individuals included a report from Heim that the town of Culver -- as well as its parks department -- now has a Facebook page to keep citizens informed, which she encouraged council members to "like" online.
Heim also noted Culver's town-wide yard sales will take place over the Sept. 28 and 29 weekend, with the town-wide cleanup slated for Oct. 13.
Town marshal Wayne Bean discussed the previous weekend's Lake Max Triathlon, with which his department -- as well as state and county police -- assisted. Audience members offered praise for how well the event went, noting local restaurants were crowded and much larger numbers of participants were expected for next year's event.
Audience member Kathy Clark, director of the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council, noted water testing of the lake for blue-green algae "passed with flying colors.