Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 21, 2012

Zoning issues have a way of packing meeting rooms


— Nothing seems to pack a meeting room quicker or more fully than a contentious zoning issue. City and county councils discuss budgets or talk about important policies and hardly anyone shows up to talk about those. But, we have noticed that zoning issues often draw a crowd.

That occurred again Monday when the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners revisited a zoning request to allow the Martin’s Animal Bedding business to move from property along Ind. 119 to property along C.R. 17 south of C.R. 38. Neighbors of the business spoke up about their concerns and what they think will be negative impacts on their property and lives. But there were also accusations made that didn’t hold any water.

Ultimately the request was granted by virtue of a 2-1 vote by the commissioners.

We like to see this kind of citizen participation. Even questions and presentations in opposition that may be inaccurate to any given zoning situation are welcome because they often make zoning officials, the petitioners and county commissioners consider “what ifs.” And those “what ifs” should be part of every zoning decision.

We know the neighbors of the new Martin’s location are not happy with the commissioners’ decision to allow the rezoning, but our experience with reporting on zoning issues is that the end result is never as bad as expected.

A perfect example of this is the Waterford Commons subdivision on Goshen’s south side. The massive development has still not been completed more than 20 years after long zoning hearings were held with angry opponents voicing predictions that it would turn into an inglorious neighborhood. Instead, it has blossomed into the modern multi-use development that its planners envisioned. It has mobile homes, manufactured homes, apartments, duplexes, a school, an assisted living community and a nursing home.

All the residences look good and the residents are proud of their neighborhood, as they should be. But we remember when people in Goshen predicted Waterford Commons would become an “aluminum ghetto.” That hasn’t happened and we don’t ever see that as being a possibility.

We don’t know what the future holds for Martin’s Animal Bedding, but we think now that the decision has been made, the owners should make an effort to keep their neighbors involved and informed as construction begins. And on the other side of the fence, the neighbors should reconsider their positions and welcome this small business to the neighborhood.

It may be obvious to say so, but we think it takes two to make good neighbors.