Mike Yoder: “Community input reflected in Draft E”

by Jerry Goshert

When the Elkhart County plan commission tried unsuccessfully a year ago to adopt a new countywide zoning ordinance, some people said the proposal, known as Draft E, reflected what Mike Yoder wanted, not what the community as a whole wanted.

Yoder, a county commissioner and plan commission member, had supported the zoning plan as it moved through various revisions (Draft E was preceded by drafts A, B, C and D) and ultimately to an emotion-filled public hearing in mid-April.

Of the 30 or so speakers, all but one spoke against the proposal. Some accused Yoder, a Middlebury dairy farmer, of pushing a farmland preservation agenda at the expense of growth.

Yoder defended Draft E, saying it would have grandfathered-in existing uses, was friendly to Amish businesses and, for the sake of reducing rural-urban conflicts, limited residential development in agricultural areas.

Critics, including the Elkhart County Farm Bureau, said the restriction on development would have lowered property values. On the other hand, Yoder said it would have given farmers a buffer from nearby homes.

That night, after a lot of finger pointing in Yoder’s direction, the proposal was defeated.

Now, as planners try again to pass a new ordinance, Yoder will be part of the process. But he wants the public to know that he is not pushing a personal agenda.