Extraterritorial Boundaries

I’m currently sitting on committees forming new comprehensive plans for Plymouth and Culver. I’ve been pushing Culver to do a new Comp Plan since 2020. (See post here) Wouldn’t ‘2020 Vision for Culver’ been a good name!?! But I think they had some Stellar fatigue followed by pandemic malaise…

Houseal Lavigne Comp Plan for Culver

This will be the third time I’ve done this for Culver and the second time for Plymouth. MACOG has started offering this as a (paid) service and is leading these meetings for both communities. Ratio Architects did the previous one for Plymouth and an earlier one for Culver. The last one for Culver was completed by Houseal Lavigne.

What have I learned from these experiences? You’re buying a template. They all have strived to “personalize” the product, but lined up on a table without the credits, it would be pretty easy to group them by consultant. The format would give it a way.

But to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s RestaurantBut that’s not what I came to tell you about. I came to talk about… Extraterritorial Boundaries.

If you follow that link, you’ll see that the Indiana legislators are constantly messing with the definition and powers granted to municipalities for their extraterritorial jurisdiction. The core premise is that municipalities are allowed to extend their zoning boundaries to cover areas of potential future municipal expansion. This is done with the consent of the County. It has generally been a 2 mile zone. The distance is increased when there is a lake involved, i.e. in the case of Culver, the south end of Lake Maxinkuckee is more than 2 miles from town, but is included in Culver’s Zoning Jurisdiction. This is not annexation. It doesn’t change tax rates. It doesn’t include water, sewer or road extensions. It just brings those areas under the municipality’s land planning jurisdiction and provides some control over how it is developed. In most cases, any development of significance would need municipal connections and most other developments will feel minimum impact. It’s a good way for the municipality to keep track of what’s happening around them and how it will affect them.

Culver’s Zoning Boundary – 2013
The pink area shows the current extended authority. The loop outside that shows the approximate limits if the Two Mile area was granted.

I have pushed several times for Culver to expand their Extraterritorial Jurisdiction to the limits allowed by the State. This is just good planning practice. I have an extended post about it from February 14, 2013 here. The drawing to the right is from that post. It shows where Culver’s Extraterritorial jurisdiction should have been then. That was before the annexation of The Paddocks PUD on the west side of town, the Beste annexation on the west and north side of town and the upcoming annexation on the south side of the Masonic Cemetery. All of those would extend the potential jurisdiction to the south, west and north. (The main effect would be on the north side since in the drawing we’re already running into to edge of county boundaries and the chances of Starke or Pulaski counties granting Culver jurisdiction are slim.)

Culver Zoning Boundary – 2023

The other change from the map above is that the current boundary became much more jagged after that. Sometime around 8 years ago, Culver chose to partner with the County on permitting, using their system. Unfortunately their system is quite crude and couldn’t handle parcels that had split zoning. This ended up in some negotiations which moved split parcels in and out of Culver’s jurisdiction based on the percentage that was in Culver’s jurisdiction at the time. At that time I argued strenuously that all the partial parcels should be brought under Culver’s jurisdiction since they were all fully within the allowable extraterritorial jurisdiction, but the Marshall County Plan Director and Marshall County Building Inspector pushed back on this, not wanting to give up County control. This was a huge missed opportunity, but it’s water under the bridge now.

Plymouth Zoning Boundary – 2023

I have been told that Plymouth’s Extraterritorial Boundary does take in all of the allowed jurisdiction. Looking at the drawing to the right, this is mostly correct, but not 100%. This is most obviously an issue in the industrial area on the NW side of Plymouth.

The Comprehensive Planning process will not change this, but I would suggest that the new Comp Plans include strong recommendations to expand the boundaries. That is a first step. This is not so much a power grab. It’s not about control. It’s more about knowledge and PLANNING. Both communities should look at Bremen and their struggles, where they’ve allowed their industrial area to become landlocked. This is an easy, local example of why planning outside the immediate boundaries of the community are important.

Marshall County Sewer District Areas of Concern

Currently, there are new things going on which should be part of this extraterritorial planning. One of these, which is of huge significance, is the County’s pursuit of expanded sewer districts. In Culver, it is likely that the town would be asked to take in sewer for Burr Oak and Hibbard. The push for inclusion of lakes means it is likely that Plymouth may be asked to take in all of the chain of lakes all the way to Lake Latonka. If these areas start to become municipal “customers”, then their future development becomes the concern of those municipalities. Look at the trend towards bigger and bigger houses around Lake Maxinkuckee and Pretty Lake. Sewer access will make this likely with the other lakes as well Many of them have lots that are currently unbuildable, but with sewer, that will change.

Marshall County Chain of Lakes

There is also a concern with allocation of resources. The County is struggling to hire and struggling to provide coverage. In the Culver area, a potential solution for both entities would be to expand Culver’s zoning jurisdiction to the County lines to the south and west of Culver. This would eliminate the small fringe area of county zoning around Culver and it would help Culver with planning control.

While Burr Oak and Hibbard aren’t exactly booming communities, sewer access could change this. Again, bringing this under Culver’s zoning control would help the town anticipate and plan for any growth. Sewer access could well spawn growth in Burr Oak. As mentioned in my article, the proximity to major electric service from the Burr Oak substation and access to an significant railroad line could be the catalyst for growth if sewer were available.

I don’t see much in the way of downside to this expansion. I know some in the AG area don’t want this oversight, but in reality, the municipal zoning has been changed so that the AG designation for the municipalities reasonably mimics the AG designation in the County. The municipal plan commissions have a county appointed member so there is representation. This is not to say that the municipalities don’t occasionally over step, as they did with the WECS rules, but even with those, the county eventually came pretty much in line with the same rules.

I will continue to advocate for expanding the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction of Plymouth and Culver as I serve on these committees. I think this is appropriate and necessary planning. It should be positive for all involved.

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