Rhine board weighs building inspection fee hikes, contract

by Sabrina Nucciarone
Review Correspondent

RHINE — Steve Gage of Safe Build brought the Town Board up to date during the May 1 meeting on upcoming changes that may take place in the billing fees for home and building inspections, should the town decide to renew the contract of the building inspection company.

Without any increase since 2015 due to the acquisition of another company called Independent Inspections, Gage indicated that volume is not being covered by what is charged. “Shame on us,” Gage said, for not keeping up with the times. “We had our arms wrapped around other issues.”

A variety of factors will result in the increase of 15 to 20 percent, he said. They include the natural features of the local lakes which pose unusual concerns and add time and effort to inspections, technological software for the filing process, and the difference in what is done by local inspectors on smaller jobs versus commercial developments that are typically filed by the developer or the architect. The threshold cap of smaller jobs is 50,000 square feet.

To keep more inspection business local and add a revenue stream for the town, Gage suggested a computer program called Commercial Plan Review that would add a quicker turn-around time and more control to commercial building projects. If the board passes an ordinance that indicates agreement to the use of the program, Safe Build could become the certified agent authority instead of the inspection for a commercial building be sent to the state via the developer or architect.

In order for the board to make a decision about retaining the services of Safe Build, Platz requested that Gage supply the proposed fee schedule and a comparison spread sheet of what neighboring towns have agreed to, based on what fees were and what they are proposed to be.

Trackside Townhomes progress

The development of Trackside Townhomes is moving forward. Board members are working separately with the developer, the town of Plymouth and concerned members of the community to see that all needs are met to mutually comply with Rhine regulations. The development, which straddles the two towns, has to meet the conditions and or restrictions based on ordinances for each town.

The development agreement, which identifies the boundary line among other things, was reviewed by Paul Dirkse, the attorney for the town. Chairman Ron Platz was concerned by the request for a zero setback, but didn’t see a need for a conditional use permit and couldn’t speak to what town of Plymouth would regulate. “Only Rhine is our business,” Platz said.

As plans for building construction move ahead to eventual completion, inspection and the taxes that are assessed will be done separately according to the separate regulations of each town.

“The lot doesn’t change because it splits the boundary. Each building inspector would have to issue their own tag, or whatever,” Platz said.

Town Supervisor Frank Zimmerman is concerned about how the roads will handle the wear and tear of construction vehicles. “The road committee should go over there and take photos. Pictures don’t lie,” he said.

During public comments, Paul Boocher of the Little Elkhart Lake Rehabilitation District said he is concerned about the well or wells that would be needed for the size of this housing development. If drilling a new well will deplete or contaminate existing wells, what would the remedy be, he asked.

Road America sign complaints

Complaints from neighbors near Road America were heard by board at their April meeting about the blue LED sign at the entrance of the famed race track, according to the meeting minutes. Shining brightly during the night, residents say that the light should be dimmed or turned off at night because of the disturbance it causes.

Greg Weiser of Road America was in attendance at the April meeting. He said he was not aware of any complaints but would have his IT personnel look in to the concerns about the sign. The sign, which actually sits in town of Plymouth, was given a conditional use permit by that board and notification of that permit for the sign placement was given to surrounding towns.

All individuals who spoke were in favor of what Road America brings to the region but agreed that the sign disturbs the integrity of the rural surroundings.

Joan Girard, who spoke at the April meeting, said the brightness and blinking of the sign invades her bedroom.

Frank Clemey, according to the April minutes, said he would like to see the light turned off by 9 p.m.

Because the sign is not situated in the town of Rhine, Chairman Platz said that residents who have concerns about the sign should address Weiser directly.

Boarder farm concerns

A recent request that came before the town for a new business venture has Rhine area resident Julie Stodolka concerned.

Following the business development of Rhine Boarder Farm, Stodolka indicated that there is still procedural paperwork that the farm’s owner, Joseph Koenig, has not completed. In addition, Stodolka requested that neighbors and property owners within two miles of the farm receive notification of the public hearing to address the type of business the Koenigs wish to operate.

According to the February meeting minutes, Chairman Ron Platz indicated that he has “been in constant contact” with Koenig to provide needed local and state information to proceed with the business start-up.

He added that all meeting agendas are published in the newspaper and meeting minutes are posted on the town’s website, as well as other locations. Platz said that the town board follows state guidelines regarding the notification and posting of meetings to take place.

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