Chesterton Tribune



Pavilion Partners get DNR deadline to finish work

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A little more than four years after the Indiana Department of Natural Resources entered into a lease agreement with Pavilion Partners LLC--and a little less than four years after all work on the Pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park abruptly ended, in September 2015--DNR is now holding the LLC’s feet to the fire to get the rehab and remodeling of the Pavilion done.

In an amendment to the original lease agreement approved on March 13, 2019, by DNR Director Cameron Clark, the DNR has established a timeline under which Pavilion Partners undertakes to complete certain phases of the project or face financial penalties or otherwise the termination of the lease itself:

--By May 25, 2019, Pavilion Partners must demonstrate “substantial completion” of a lifeguard area and concessions and general store in the Pavilion, termed “Beach Offerings.” Should the LLC fail to do so, it must provide instead “mobile food services in a manner that is acceptable to the Indiana State Department of Health, as well as provide a lifeguard trailer,” according to the lease amendment. The failure to do so by May 25 “shall not be deemed a default under the lease,” so long as mobile food services and a lifeguard trailer are made available until the earlier of two dates: the day on which Beach Offerings are completed at the Pavilion; or by Sept. 3.

--By May 18, 2020, Pavilion Partners must “complete construction on the Pavilion, obtain final occupancy permit(s), and provide Beach Offerings and restaurant services to the general public inside the Pavilion and in accordance with the minimum days and hours of operation” as detailed in the original lease. Failure to do so will make the LLC subject to a “Penalty Fee” of $2,000 per day for up to 31 days, and of $3,000 per day for 32-75 days.

--Should, however, Pavilion Partners fail to complete construction, secure occupancy permit(s), and provide Beach Offerings and restaurant services to the general public inside the Pavilion by Aug. 1, 2020, then DNR has the option of terminating the lease.

When Pavilion Partners formally announced the Pavilion project and banquet center in February 2015, the LLC expected the interior and rooftop restaurants to be completed sometime during the 2015 season.

The lease amendment also includes two other clauses of interest, on parking and on potential property damage:

--Pavilion Partners “shall ensure that its contractors do not park in the two rows of parking spaces in closest proximity to the Pavilion for the duration of the construction period.”

--Pavilion Partners must notify the DNR within 120 days of any property damaged incurred as a direct result of construction, and that the LLC will “promptly undertake all repair required.”

The lease amendment features language as well in the event that the LLC’s lease is assumed by another party: a “successor entity” or “mortgagee,” as the amendment puts it. In the event a specified successor entity or mortgagee proves “not acceptable” to the DNR--or the “lessor”--the DNR “will give notice thereof to such mortgagee within 30 days after the date of the notice by such mortgagee to lessor, and such mortgagee may designate another successor entity; such process will be repeated until a successor entity that is acceptable to (the DNR) is approved by (the DNR).”

As the Chesterton Tribune reported last week, construction has finally resumed on the Pavilion, not quite four years after work ceased entirely in September 2015.

Meanwhile, in December 2018, a special prosecutor designated by then Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel to investigate allegations of improprieties regarding construction work at the Pavilion, made by Dunes Action, announced that he found no “infractions.”

In a Dec. 27, 2018, letter to Jim Sweeney, co-founder of Dunes Action, special prosecutor David Thomas stated the following:

“I have struggled with this case. Personally, I see great value in historic preservation. However, when I first received the material on this case, I did not see how the allegations fit the infraction offense. Please keep in mind that, as a prosecutor, the only issue is whether there is a violation to be charged.

“I have reviewed the case several times since my appointment, trying to see if the allegations might show a violation. They do not. I also visited the site to see if a personal viewing would change my perspective. It did not, and in fact strengthened a decision not to file a charge.

“I am sure this is disappointing news to you and your group. Yet the decision needs to be made, and I regret to inform you that I will not file the infraction offense.”

In appointing Thomas special prosecutor, Gensel cited his own professional and personal relationship with Pavilion Partners principal Chuck Williams.



Posted 5/2/2019






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