Chesterton Tribune



County Park Board hears citizens' plea for land buy in Center Township

Back To Front Page



A group of citizens approached the Porter County Park Board at its meeting Thursday about partnering to preserve land where a 40-lot subdivision has been proposed.

Andrea Proulx Buinicki, Valparaiso resident speaking on behalf of the group, came before the Board to gauge the Board’s interest in partnering to manage and preserve land near their homes. “We would like to ask for your partnership and your help and creativity in finding a solution to preserve 13 acres of greenspace, protect the water quality of Loomis and Spectacle Lakes, and safeguard natural habitats for birds and wildlife,” Buinicki said.

The property, owned by the Kilmer family, is 17.4 acres zoned medium density single-family residential. The owners have said publicly that they are amenable to selling 13 acres of the land instead of developing it. The parcel is near Rogers Lakewood Park in Liberty Township, south of Spectacle Drive, north of Andover Drive, and east of Campbell Road. A request to annex the parcel into the City of Valparaiso was rejected in a 4-3 vote by the Valparaiso Town Council last month after the project was met with much disapproval from the public.

The group is comprised of local residentsÑthey are not a formal nonprofit and don’t intend to form one, but among them are people involved with the local Izaak Walton League, Woodlands and Savannah Land Conservancy, 219 Green Connect, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, and Valpo Chain of Lakes. According to Buinicki, members of the group have made soft commitments to donate at least $94,500 toward the purchase and have hired an appraiser to determine the value of the parcel.

“No one of us has the skillset or the knowledge base to manage that land or to develop it for recreational purposes,” Buinicki said. “We want to align with your mission and support you.”

Buinicki asked three questions of the Board: Would the Parks Department manage the land as a donation, would Parks put in an offer to the property owners while the group fundraises, and “are there other solutions we can approach together that align with your mission to preserve and protect the resources?”

Board member Annetta Jones asked how much the property may cost. Buinicki said she doesn’t have an appraisal yet, but the assessed value of the entire 17.4 acres is $455,000.

Board member David Canright noted that buying is tricky for the Park Board, since it relies on the County Council for funding, and often does grant-driven projects that use little to no taxpayer money.

Board President Craig Kenworthy suggested Buinicki should contact the Parks Foundation next, since the Foundation is a non-profit with more freedom of buying power.

The Board opted, at Kenworthy’s suggestion, to have the land acquisition and development committee discuss the matter further at a future meeting. The committee will tour the land to see what potential it may have for recreational development, preservation or grant funding.

Public comment

Don Frank, of Jackson Township, alerted the Board to potential drainage issues on some of the properties it leases to farmers.

Frank said that the Park property that is being farmed at 1500N and County Line Road abuts a ditch that drains into the Little Calumet River. He’s concerned about whatever chemicals are used in that area, and how closely to the ditch they are used, because vegetation all the way down to the water line of the ditch is being affected.

“My suggestion would be, that since you’re going to negotiate contracts with the farmers that you specify on any land you own that they stay a minimum of 50 feet away from any ditch. If you can go 100 feet, that would be even better to prevent any leeching of those chemicals,” Frank said.

“I would suggest you take a look at all the property you own that may attach to a drain.”

That includes the property Frank brought up and Brookdale Park, much of which is still leased farmland.

Canright and Kenworthy agreed Frank had “a very valid concern.” Canright suggested the Board come up with a policy creating a buffer zone around the ditches.

Board Attorney David Hollenbeck, who will be advertising the land for farm leases soon, said he advertises the land by “tillable acres.” Hollenbeck said he will specify in the legal notices that 50-foot buffer zones around the ditches are not part of the tillable land.


Posted 12/10/2018




Search This Site:

Custom Search