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Board rehears McCance request for lot split

THORNVILLE- The Thorn Township Zoning Appeals Board listened one more time to a case that nearly led to the repeal of all zoning in the township last November.

The appeals board has 30 days from Jan. 11 to decide to uphold a denial of a McCance family request to split 61 acres of land, purchased in 1969 (22 years before zoning existed in Thorn Township), to build houses for family members. The appeals board denied the lot splits because the property does not have 300 feet of road frontage per individual lot, as is required by zoning. The current zoning states that there must be at least 300 feet of road frontage and 3.5 acres for each house built, no matter how large the entire lot is.

Rick McCance, representing his mother, Joanne McCance, who owns the property, said Thursday night that the appeals board approved a variance for his home in 2001; Rick McCance’s home sits on 3.5 acres of the property but lacks the required road frontage. McCance has stated previously that the variance was given as a “hardship case” because his father was dying of cancer at the time, and his father was told that he could continue to receive variances as long as his children and grandchildren inherit sections of the 61 acre property. But, McCance said that his brother’s variance request was denied after his father passed because the hardship no longer existed. McCance and his attorney, James Thompson, attended the Jan. 11 appeals board meeting to convince the board that denying the requested variance is still a hardship to the family.

“I think there are some really good reasons why you should change your mind,” Thompson told the board. He said that McCance did everything required of him in 2000 to receive a variance for his own house in 2001, including building a 300 feet lane to SR 13. Thompson said a similar local case was granted a variance.

McCa n c e b r o u g h t two witnesses. Witness Mark Canter testified that the McCance family was told in 2000 that more variances would be permitted. Witness Mitch Fellows, a real estate agent, testified that without the variances, the McCance property is devalued by $400,000 to $500,000.

“Th e McCa n c e f ami l y purchased the land prior to zoning,” said Fellows. “McCance should be grandfathered in.”

McCance said forcing his family members to pay for land to build houses when there’s plenty of property waiting for them is “the biggest hardship there is.”

Thorn Township BZA Chair Tim Cotterman, who was clear that he was speaking only for himself and not all BZA members, said Wednesday that the McCance family’s request was turned down simply because, according to Thorn Township zoning, the property did not have enough road frontage to warrant a lot split. When the McCance family was told that lot splits may be permitted several years ago, “We were dealing with a different (zoning) book,” Cotterman said, and the rules have changed since then.

Cotterman doesn’t remember of a time when the Thorn Township BZA overturned one of its decisions, but BZA members will consider the testimony provided during the Jan. 11 meeting and more information that McCance and Thompson will provide the board. “We decided to accept (information) after the fact,” he said.

Cotterman expects that it will take two weeks for the court reporter present at the Jan. 11 meeting to prepare her report, then the BZA will need to discuss the information. He anticipates that the BZA will require most of its allotted 30 days to render a decision.

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