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A Columbus lawmaker received approval to divide his property at Harrison Lakes into two lots, more than two years and a court case after he first applied for the variance request.
The Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 on Tuesday night to approve the request from Republican state Rep. Milo Smith and his wife Diane. Board president Eric Frey first sought to deny the request but could not find support from his fellow board members. Frey voted against the motion to approve Smith’s application. Board member Tom Wetherald was absent.
According to county records, the Smiths bought the property at 9815 W. Raintree Drive in 2010 for $600,000. In October 2011, they sought approval to divide the property into two lots and was denied by the BZA. They filed an appeal in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 in November 2011, which was finally heard in May by Judge Jon Webster of Jennings Circuit Court. Webster sent the matter back to the Columbus board, finding that an incorrect term was used in the motion to deny the request.
After the meeting, Milo Smith said he was glad the matter was finally settled and he was ready to take a break from worrying about it.
“I was pleased. They looked at the facts and made a decision based on the facts,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting was conducted in the first floor meeting room at City Hall to accommodate a crowd of about 70 people, almost all opposed to the request.
At issue was the agricultural zoning of the property, which requires that after a lot is divided the new lots still retain a size of at least 10 acres. The Smiths’ property is only about two acres in size and the divided lots would only be about an acre, requiring the board to approve a variance.
According to a staff recommendation presented by Rae-Leigh Stark, senior planner with the city-county planning department, the lot sizes, road frontage and lake frontage would all be on par with other properties on the lake.
Richard and Bambi Wigh, who own property neighboring the Smiths’ lot, said after the meeting they were disappointed with the board’s decision. During the hearing they contended that the division would reduce their property values and endanger the health, safety and general welfare of the community. The Wighs presented a petition that represented more than 90 percent of the Harrison Lakes property owners. Bambi Wigh asked those in attendance who opposed the project to rise from their seats and almost the entire room stood.
Andy Pajakowski, president of the Harrison Lakes landowners’ association, said that the property division would endanger public health because the property is only entitled to one sewer hookup to the lake’s wastewater plant. A septic system would likely taint the lake water, he said.
Pajakowski said the request was “infringing on the very essence of what makes this community so special.”
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