BZA denies gap for group home –

This map from shows the general area where the group home has been proposed. The house would have been at the east end of Blue Collar Drive, seen in the lower right corner. The area is just south of US 30.

By David Slone
Times Union

WARSAW – A waiver allowing a non-profit group home for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in an industrial zoning district-2 was denied by the Warsaw Zoning Appeals Board on Monday evening .

Dawnna Plummer, founder and executive director of Beloved: Not Forgotten, requested the use waiver to permit a group home for those in need in an I-2 district. A donor offered land in an industrial park for this purpose.

Located along the cul-de-sac near Executive Boulevard and Blue Collar Drive, surrounding zoning districts include I-2 to the north, south, and west and Commercial-2 to the east.

Deputy town planner Bekah Schrag told the BZA that the group home will serve up to 10 people for 18 to 24 months at a time. The property will also include offices for the services offered on site.

“In an I-2 Industrial District, uses that are harmful to human health are permitted, including mixing materials, processing meat, and storing flammable, explosive, or radioactive materials,” Schrag said. “Many industrial uses have necessary buffer zones near residences to reduce this impact. In addition, the city code states that in all industrial districts, residential is prohibited. Specifically, in an I-2 district, the code states, “Residential uses are prohibited…to conserve and protect the supply of industrial land for industrial use. »

Schrag said while there is a need for this service in the area, the requested use would not be conducive to the parcel and would be in direct interference with the district’s purpose. The planning department suggested to the BZA to refuse the application.

A letter from Ray E. Plummer stated that the subject property is joined to the east and south by a residential property, the same as Dawnna Plummer’s application.

“We are in favor of this variation and believe the site is very suitable for such a business and community,” Ray’s letter reads.

There were no remonstrances to the petition either in writing or at the meeting. Board member Rick Keeven has refrained from participating in the case as he and his wife are neighbors and friends of the petitioner.

Dawnna Plummer said that over the past 6 1/2 years they have served 38 people, including seven men and about eight who are not part of Kosciusko County.

“The others in Kosciusko County, ages 7 to 60, who were trafficked or sexually exploited,” she said. “We are looking to open this house. At first I wasn’t really sure of the location but the more I thought about it the more I thought what a great place actually because we can build the building to look more industrial and it would be harder to find.

She said the donor gave them Lots 10 and 2, Lot 2 contiguous to residential properties. “With that in mind, I was thinking that the wetlands, this lot #2, we could do something like Beyer Park where we would put a place for our ladies to walk around, etc., etc.

“It’s a need we have for this county. We took almost seven years to do that,” Dawnna said.

BZA chairman Tom Allen said the need was not going to be canceled at all.

“The problem is you put it in an area where it’s not allowed,” he said. “I want to emphasize that this is not allowed.”

Dawnna said Lot 10 is a very small buildable area for an industrial property, so it was “highly unlikely” that an industrial organization would come there.

Allen told her that one of the things she had to keep in mind for the BZA was that all board members were sworn in and they had to follow codes.

“And unless there’s some really awesome reason, why I’ve only been there 16 years and there’s never been one where we break the codes to allow something to happen there where it’s not allowed, it’s really kind of a no-start, unfortunately. We just can’t make an exception based on good need,” Allen said.

He mentioned that the only thing that could be done was to rezone the property, but he wasn’t going to do that, and it would take more paperwork. Dawnna mentioned she would, and Allen told her it was between her and the Warsaw Planning Department. A rezoning application would also require another hearing.

Ray Plummer said when he got this property rezoned it was agricultural land and it was rezoned to industrial. He also said the sewers and water were already there at the property line.

“But I was told when I zoned this, anything less than agriculture could come into this property,” Ray said.

Allen said it didn’t change where he was zoned now.

Board member Tammy Dalton made a motion to deny the request, and Dan Smith provided the second. It was disallowed 4-0, Keeven having abstained.

Plummer’s organization website is at

In the second petition to the Warsaw BZA, the Diocese of Our Lady of Guadalupe of Fort Wayne-South Bend requested a use waiver to permit a residence in a Commercial-2 zoning district at 303 Gilliam Drive.

The current land use is commercial and it is surrounded by zoning districts C-2 to the north, south and east and Residential-1 to the west.

Schrag said the plot is located next to residential land where the church the petitioner operates is located. The petitioner wishes to use the plot to house a church official as well as offices for the church. Since only a small number of people will use this plot for residential purposes, the surrounding context will not be greatly impacted by traffic or noise, she said. In addition, all residential type uses are permitted in C-2 neighborhoods by special derogation.

Based on findings of fact, the planning department suggests the board view this request favorably, Schrag said.

A letter from Jon R. Shively, a resident of the Rolling Hills subdivision, Crestlane Drive, asked the BZA to deny the request in the best interest of the local community.

303 Gilliam Drive is a 3,200 square foot building built in 1977 as an office, he wrote. The building was purchased by the current owner in 1994 and has operated as a business office ever since.

He said their request is not considered a special exception in a C-2 district and would remove an accepted commercial use in a commercial district.

“The acceptance of the petition would expand non-conforming occupancy in a structure that is not intended to function as residential accommodation,” he said in part.

Marty Stephens, Deer Trail, submitted the same letter as Shively but with their name on it.

Brandi Kitson, with Phil Hahn & Associates, representing the petitioner’s broker, Our Lady of Guadalupe, said the church currently leases the building and wants to be able to house the priest and any visiting priests. It would also provide meeting rooms in the extension of the church. Kitson said it would be cheaper to buy the property than to build a new one.

The building, once used for Scott Financial Services, is now empty. It is 3,200 square feet. Kitson said they were requesting the waiver so they could finalize the church’s purchase of the building.

City attorney Scott Reust mentioned that the BZA could impose restrictions on variance of use, such as who could live there. Keeven said he liked the idea of ​​limiting it to church staff so it doesn’t become a “sanctuary town situation for illegal immigrants coming through town or something.”

BZA member Jeff Johnson moved a motion to approve the use waiver with the restriction that anyone staying or living there must be a member of church staff. Dalton seconded the motion and it was approved 5-0.

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