A Pulaski County adventure park is drawing privacy concerns from some of its neighbors. McKenzie and John Forest live just north of Rugged Adventures, outside Winamac. Last week, they came to the county commissioners looking for help.
“The tower is like basically in our backyard,” McKenzie said. “Literally, people call me, tell me what I’m wearing standing in my kitchen. I mean, all the blinds are now closed. We can’t use the back of our house. This has been going on for years. I mean, we currently are in a lawsuit with them, but we also have tried for years – we want to do this without going through that. If we can go through the town, and just civilly say, ‘Give us some privacy.’ They put mounds up next to 35. They have mounds next up against JSI.”
However, Commissioner Mike McClure didn’t think it was the commissioners’ role to mediate in the dispute. “I’d say it’s going to take a judge to tell them they’ve got to build a retaining wall or something for privacy,” he said. “I don’t see where any elected official like us would have that power. I think it’s going to take one of the judges to say, ‘Bobby, you’ve got to put a privacy mound up or something.’” County Attorney Kevin Tankersley said that would be a “very normal resolution of a nuisance claim,” and added that a judge could make that order, while the commissioners can’t.
However, there were a couple aspects that the Forests felt could involve the plan commission or board of zoning appeals. The first had to do with the way the property was rezoned for its current development to begin with. McKenzie said they were notified that the land would no longer be zoned for general agriculture, but they were unaware that would allow for the construction of an adventure park. “So we were under the understanding that Bobby Rugg, JSI, maybe they wanted to add onto the scrap yard,” she said. “We didn’t come to that meeting. There were two other meetings. That’s when it went into an amusement park, the tower being built, all that kind of stuff, which we were never notified of.”
Forest also said that the county’s current Unified Development Ordinance is more restrictive than the rules that were in place when Rugged Adventures was built, specifically when it comes to the height of the tower and the distance from homes. While she understands that the current structures are allowed to stay, she felt that requiring Rugged Adventures to install a privacy barrier would be a reasonable step.
At the same time, Forest was also concerned about potential new developments. “She said that she’s putting a rock-climbing wall, which is almost as tall as the tower, and there’s multiple things that she has listed,” Forest said. “The only place to go is literally our backyard. Literally. So how do we do that, then? She can just keep going on because she’s already grandfathered in?”
The commissioners assured Forest that any new structures would have to meet the county’s current development standards, unless the BZA grants an exception. They suggested that they contact the county’s Building Department and ask to be notified if any permits are filed.