UNION TOWNSHIP | When the idea of the Taltree Arboretum & Gardens was first presented just more than 12 years ago, the county did not have a zoning classification to cover that type of use.
As a result, the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals granted a permanent use variance for the 186-acre site.
With the addition of 138 acres last year, officials at Taltree plan to make another appearance before county planners Nov. 10 to take advantage of the wider offering of zoning options made available with the approval of the unified development ordinance.
The request before county plan commission is to rezone 324 acres from rural residential to parks and recreation.
The proposed change comes as Taltree prepares to take a leap forward with the spring opening of its newest feature, a G-scale Railway Garden.
The site's board of directors is also reportedly reviewing a recently updated master plan to determine capital project priorities for the next decade.
"Implementation of the master plan will result in Taltree realizing its full potential to evolve into a first rate institution, comparable to Morton Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Garden, Holden Arboretum and others," Taltree founder Damien Gabis said.
"Our ability to positively impact tourism and economic development in the region will also be a collateral benefit to the community," he said.
The P2 zoning sought by Taltree allows for conservation uses, such as conservancy and nature preserves, trails and public access for fishing and boating, according to the county's unified development ordinance.
If the rezoning request is approved by the plan commission, it will be forwarded to the Porter County Board of Commissioners for final consideration, said attorney Todd Leeth, who is representing Taltree in the case.