Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Commissioners drop animal shelter request, park foundation told

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Sunset Hill Park looking north toward U.S. 6 and the Porter County Park Foundation property.

(Tribune photo by Margaret Willis)
 

By JEFF SCHULTZ

Members of the Porter County Parks Foundation and neighbors of Sunset Hill Farm were ready to do battle with the County Board of Commissioners over building the new animal shelter on Park Foundation land Thursday afternoon.

But before any discussion could begin, County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, put anxieties to rest, stating her board will “no longer be pursuing placement of a shelter on Foundation property.”

At least the announcement relieved Park Foundation president Dave Yeager who worried that a shelter would cause revocation of the Foundation’s status as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

“I think our problem has been solved,” he said.

The proposal has yielded a monthlong outpouring of objections from the community since it was announced by the Commissioners at their Aug. 20 meeting.

While being accused earlier by Yeager of not doing their due diligence for not approaching the Foundation before publicly announcing their intentions, Blaney said the Commissioners had decided to take their idea to the county parks board, to see if they had the board’s support before speaking with the Foundation.

“(Commissioner President) John Evans and I are in the process of trying to solve a community problem, so we opted to vet our idea publicly to the community. We didn’t come with an edict, but an idea,” Blaney said.

The Commissioners sought Sunset Hill Farm because of the recommendations listed in the Shelter Planners of America study in terms of accessibility, Blaney said.

They arrived at the specific location on U.S. about 1,600 feet east of the Meridian Rd. intersection across from Edmond Court, because there would be access to sewer and water hookup.

“It fit very well,” Blaney said.

But now the commissioners will look “diligently” for a new location, said Blaney, who was not specific on where that might be or if the Commissioners will look again at other land at Sunset Hill Farm not belonging to the Foundation. Residents have been coming to her with suggestions of other options, she said.

Yeager invited Parks and Recreation Manager Matt Howton to speak about his idea of putting the Shelter at Brookdale County Park, located one mile north of Sunset Hill Farm on Meridian Rd. between CR 900N and 950N, where it may be more welcomed.

“It’s strictly a brainstorming idea,” Howton said.

A master plan for the undeveloped park indicates the east portion will be used for active recreation eventually with ball fields while the western side will be used for passive purposes, but so far the concept has not garnered the funds needed for development.

Howton said there were suggestions in the past of having some kind of dog park with an indoor/outdoor facility that could be conducive to Brookdale.

Public speaks

Though the proposal was declared withdrawn, that didn’t stop a few audience members from expressing their concerns and suggestions.

Liberty Twp. resident Charlotte Read, a president of the Parks Foundation, said she would like to see the Commissioners formally put it in writing that they are giving up their proposal. She has also asked that all records of the Commissioners’ decision-making process regarding the animal shelter and the park be made public.

Read said she had read the report from Shelter Planners and it never mentions building a shelter on park land.

Jane Walsh-Brown of Tanner Trace said the noise at Sunset Hill Farm, with the truck traffic, ambulances and medivac helicopters serving nearby Porter Hospital, would cause anxiety problems with the cats and dogs waiting to be adopted.

She then advocated building the new shelter at the former County Home property on Ind. 2, close to where the existing shelter is now. Evans has said a shelter there would disturb developments and the residents of the Essex Park subdivision, but Walsh-Brown said she had researched the number of homes and said substantially more residents live between Meridian Rd. and Ind. 49.

Putting the shelter south of U.S. 30 would be more advantageous, Walsh-Brown said, because more homeowners in the southern half of the county have enough room for multiple pets.

Liberty Twp. resident and Parks Foundation member Gerald Hebert suggested the County Commission-ers let a private business operate the shelter and leave the politics out of it.

“We wouldn’t be splitting the county over this issue,” Hebert said.

Blaney said the County would still need to have an animal facility because it is statutory that the County Sheriff’s department oversees Animal Control.

A lifetime member of the Foundation, Ed Seykowski, said the Commissioners could check with other municipalities such as Portage to see if there is the possibility for the shelter to be placed at one of their parks.

Tanner Trace resident George Karch, who had voiced remonstrations previously at the Sept. 5 park board meeting over noise from barking dogs, was given a round of applause when he thanked the Commissioners for “listening to the people and withdrawing the request.”

 

 

Posted 9/20/2013