Chesterton Tribune



Inside track? Pavilion banquet center opponents call for new probe of lease

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Opponents of the privatized banquet center at the Indiana Dunes State Park beach are calling for a review of the lease between the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Pavilion Partners LLC after a Sunday Post-Tribune story reported that the state and the private Pavilion Partners had discussions on the reuse of the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion more than a year before the IDNR advertised the project.

Earlier this year Pavilion Partners was awarded a lease -- which, with optional extensions, could extend 65 years -- to renovate the pavilion and construct an adjacent banquet center. The proposed project was first reported by the Chesterton Tribune in February.

The lease provides for annual rental payments of $18,000. After a two year period, 2 percent of gross receipts will also be paid to the state.

Questions regarding whether members of the Pavilion Partners group had an unfair competitive advantage, due to prior contact with the DNR, were raised in the front page Post-Tribune story by reporter Amy Lavalley.

The story reported that public records show Pavilion Partner principals sent emails and renovation plans to the DNR in September of 2010, and also had a meeting with DNR staff in March 2011.

“The two parties were discussing major changes to this world-famous park over four years ago, yet in all that time the public never knew of this relationship, nor did the state request the needed permission for this project from the National Park Service, until we raised that red flag this year,” said Desi Robertson, co-founder of Dunes Action.

“The public deserves more answers about how the DNR established this lucrative deal, and especially about why one set of proposers got their own private tour of the Pavilion with DNR staff a year before the prospectus was released,” said Robertson.

“It looks like the Partners had access to the DNR well before the Request for Proposals was released. If that is the case, then it was not a fair and open process,” said Jim Sweeney, president of the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League.

The Izaak Walton League has asked the National Park Service to halt the project due to restrictions on development within the park under previous grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The League has passed a resolution against the proposed development.

While Dunes Action has supported restoration of the Pavilion, it is opposed to the banquet center and a liquor license that would bring three bars to the park.

Dunes ACTION! is a volunteer, non-partisan coalition.



Posted 8/6/2015




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