Chesterton Tribune



Rezonings for Liberty Township doctor office, wedding venue center continued

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A group of residents spoke out against a rezoning proposed for a 6,500 sq. ft. wedding venue and event center at the northeast corner of Ind. 149 and CR 875E in Liberty Twp. at Wednesday’s Porter County Advisory Plan Commission meeting.

The Commission was down two members and ended up having to continue the case until next month after voting 3-4 on a motion to deny, failing to make a majority requiring five votes.

Not present at the meeting were Commission members Laura Blaney and Lyndsay Ploehn.

In other matters, Director of County’s Development and Stormwater Management Department Robert Thompson said the rezoning request by Dr. Maryann Jones to change seven acres on the north side of U.S. 6 between 75 west and Meridian Rd. from a Manufactured Home Park District to a Moderate Intensity Commercial district will be continued at the request of the petitioner.

Planners did vote unanimously 7-0 to extend the renewal of the primary plat for three years starting in June of The Preserve Subdivision located at the southeast intersection of CR 1050N and CR 50W in Liberty Twp. as well as a secondary plat approval for phase one of the subdivision.

Plans for wedding hall

The location eyed for the proposed wedding venue and event center, on the boundary of Liberty and Portage townships, was met with opposition from several neighbors wishing to see the site remain zoned rural residential.

Making the request is resident Karen Lange and her company Lilac Ridge, LLC, which was represented by attorney Todd Leeth.

Leeth started with a PowerPoint presentation showing many views of the property, which is bordered by Salt Creek on the north side and surrounded by woods.

The venue is a fit choice for the property since it is in the Ind. 149 corridor, a major thoroughfare in the county, Leeth said. “The site is ideal for commercial development.”

Preliminary drawings and plans show 80 parking places and there would be acceleration and deceleration lanes at the entrance. The petitioner will return to the County’s Development Review Committee with final plans for site engineering.

Indiana American Water is ready to provide water utilities and a septic system is being planned for sewer, Leeth said.

Planned Environmental Associates will enhance landscaping to the east, Leeth added.

“We want a first class (business) that we and the County can be proud of as well,” Leeth said.

Neighbor concerns

Jane Smith was the first of 12 residents to speak during the public hearing and said she worries the intersection will produce more accidents with the event center there. She is concerned about noise pollution and asked why the petitioner can’t find another location, like the vacant parcel at U.S. 6 and Ind. 149.

“All we have is just farmland and houses and we would like to keep it that way,” Smith said.

Kathleen Shaw, who lives immediately east of the property, said her family has “avid astronomy buffs” and would like to not have the lights from the venue cause problems. She said she also wanted to know how a septic system would be adequate for the crowds of people using the center. Neighbor Gerald Klich said he thinks that type of sewage system is not environmentally sound next to Salt Creek.

More residents, including David Griffith, expressed apprehensions about traffic at the Ind. 149 and CR 875N intersection which comes over a hill.

“It’s very dangerous out there. Very dangerous,” Griffith said.

Gale Reich said that she “doesn’t want any more fatalities in front of her house” as once a motorcyclist died in a crash, and Julie Haas said that she has had two drunk drivers crash through her property in the last year. Haas said traffic controls like a traffic light should be put there.

Some neighbors like Diana Cook and Joseph Buttons questioned if the center would be a viable business.

In rebuttal, Leeth argued that the intersection has “plenty of sight distance,” up to 970 feet, and the Porter County Sheriff’s Police told him that no accidents have occurred there in the past three years. The venue would have police security at events, he added.

The Indiana State Board of Health would need to approve the commercial septic system and the plans will be made by Soil Solutions, Inc., Leeth said.

Board comments

The septic system and road traffic were concerns shared by a few Commission members. Planner Rick Burns said there is a lot of traffic on Ind. 149 and he thinks a stoplight is needed there. He also said he does not like the prospect of having a septic tank near the creek and said the County’s Unified Development Ordinance requires a sanitary sewer on site.

Planner Mitch Peters said CR 875N comes up quickly when you drive over the hill on Ind. 149, and as for visibility, “it’s bad there.”

Planner Ken William concurred those are “justifiable concerns.”

County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke said he will ask the state about putting in a traffic light but knows there are criteria to be met before they can do that, such as the number of accidents occurring. The State has also made the argument that a light can cause more problems at intersections, he said.

Commission President Robert Poparad said he travels Ind. 149 frequently and has seen accidents near CR 875N. He wondered if the Indiana State Police would have different records than the County Police.

The Commission can only make a recommendation on a rezoning and it is not their job to decide traffic issues, Poparad told the audience. The way the zoning is now on different sides of the intersection, he said, a neighbor could build a ten-home subdivision which would potentially have more traffic than a wedding venue.


Voting in favor of Burn’s Motion to deny the request were Burns, Breitzke and Ken Williams. Planners Kyle Yelton, Peters, Luther Williams and Poparad voted against denial.

Thompson said without a majority of votes on either side, the case is automatically continued to next month.


Posted 2/29/2016






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