By Randulf Teufel, Contributor

The Franklin County Area Plan Commission gave BAM Investments the green light on their rezone application for a 12 acre condominium project on Reservoir Road.

What were five lots on a private lane on 12 acres was granted a variance to allow more than five homes on a private lane in 2014 by the APC. The 12 acres are now broken into nine lots, each a little more than one acre and BAM has now requested the lots be rezoned from Residential 1 to Residential 3, which would allow the construction of multifamily housing.

Brian Bauman spoke on behalf of BAM and laid out his desire to offer a condominium housing option in Franklin County. He sees a market for people who want to own their home, but do not want to have to worry about exterior maintenance. Owners would pay dues to a condo owners association who would take care of the maintenance of the building structure, landscaping, septic system and private lane.

Each of the nine lots would have between two and four units, primarily based on the capacity of the septic site on each lot. Bauman explained because the lots will offer multifamily housing, the design of the septic systems would be specified by the Indiana State Department of Health. If the state finds any of the proposed septic sites unacceptable, the nine lots would be reduced to compensate. Bauman stressed that septic viability is the priority.

While APC President Robert Braun had originally shown some concern over the septic systems, vice-president Ruthie Mannix and board member Chris Ernstes both questioned the issue of the private lane. Private lanes have been a long time issue for rural Franklin County. The county does not want to be burdened with the maintenance of more roads, especially if they only service a handful of residents, but they also want emergency services and the residents to be able to access the homes. When the current zoning code was written, it set a limit of five homes on a private drive and requires a deed amendment for all lots on the drive, which includes a maintenance agreement. It was thought the more homeowners on a lane, the more difficult it would be to get everyone together on maintenance and the limit was placed at five. Ernstes pointed out that with the variance granted in 2014, there could be nine homeowners on the lane. If BAM built an average of three units on each of the nine lots, there would be a total of 27 homeowners all sharing a private lane.

Mannix asked APC Executive Director Cindy Orschell why this project would not be considered a subdivision. Orschell replied that the zoning code places a limit of five homes on a private lane, code specifies if one wants more than five home, they can apply to build a subdivision or apply for a variance. BAM took the variance route in 2014. Braun asked Bauman if he would agree to build the private lane to meet the standards set for streets in a subdivision in the zoning code. Bauman replied that he is willing to build a proper road to access the lots, but that he will not agree to specifications with which he is unfamiliar and that once the road was build and units sold, it would be up the new owners to maintain the road through a condo owners association.

The discussion of what the specifications of the road should be and who should be responsible to ensure the road is built to those specifications continued. APC legal counsel Tammy Davis reminded the board that they only need to make a recommendation to the County Commissioners, who can determine the specs and supervision. In the end, board member Glenn Bailey made a motion to send the application onto the commissioners with a favorable recommendation and to suggest they ensure the private lane is up to standard. Board Member Ed Derickson, Braun, Bailey, and Ernstes voted in favor, Mannix opposed.

The board also discussed ongoing business relating to the wording of a part of the zoning code. The current language can be interpreted in a few different ways, Davis felt it was important to determine how the board wants it to be interpreted and clarify the language. Specifically, the text in question deals with the finances of the county taking legal action against an individual felt to be in violation of the zoning code. There has been some question over whether county would seek to recover legal expenses if they win a case. After some discussion, Bailey made a motion to move forward with a change to the language to indicate that the county will seek to recover reasonable legal expenses and court costs in the event of a court victory. Mannix seconded the motion, which was in turn approved.

Update: At the Tuesday, September 17 commissioners meeting, commissioners voted to approve the rezone. There were no public comments or questions and nothing was mentioned about the private lane. Commissioner Tom Linkel made a motion to approve, commissioner Gerald Wendel seconded the motion and commissioner Tom Wilson abstained.