Chesterton Tribune

County BZA hears variances sought for big US 6 development

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The process for developing a 109-acre business and residential campus just to the west of the new Porter Hospital site took a few more steps Wednesday night.

The massive project, which starts just south of US 6 and extends north alongside and then beyond the hospital campus, being undertaken by St. Andrews Development appeared before the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals seeking a total of 36 variances.

After more than two and a half hours of discussion, the developers received what they felt were the eight that will allow them to take the next step in planning. The remainder of the requests will be heard at a specially-scheduled November meeting of the Porter County BZA.

All of the variances granted Wednesday were done so unanimously by the board for the multi-use development, which will be a blend zoning area including commercial, office and technology, assisted living and single-family homes.

Because of the scope of the project and the presence of existing property owners scattered on the south portion of the proposed site, the board chose to leave the public hearing open throughout the lengthy discussion process and into the next meeting. Several residents took advantage to voice their concerns about crowding, flooding, traffic and buffering issues.

Some of those issues were resolved Wednesday, while others will be addressed in the next meeting. The concern of two residents dealt with the 5,000 square foot lots in the residential area. They expressed that having houses too close together would detract from the surrounding area and that they felt the developers had changed their plan since the original proposal to the county.

The attorney for the project Todd Leath assured the residents and the board that the developers had not changed the plan; they were just following the county’s requests in zoning methods.

As for the small lots, the developer is trying for a small walkable community feel. The St Andrews group is using the nearly maintenance-free lots to target the 55-and-older “empty-nester” crowd they believe will enjoy the community.

The variances that were granted dealt with reduction of buffer zones and storm water treatment.

The first variance was granted to allow the developers to put the entryway for the campus on the far western edge of the property reducing the buffer requirement from 40 feet to 0. This was due to a mandate by the state of Indiana that the entryway be close to the crest of the hill on US 6 for driving safety. There will be 12 feet of right-of-way along the property edge before the road starts and the road will curve into the property allowing for the buffer to return to 40 feet about 210 feet into the property.

The common area requirement on the northwest portion of the project, which is R1-Residental, was also reduced to 0 because St. Andrews will take advantage of open spaces provided on the west by the Timberland subdivision and NIPSCO high tension wire property on the north.

The board also granted a blanket internal buffer reduction for the project between the four different zones. The developers said the entire campus is being designed to blend together both internally and with the hospital. Even the same color bricks are being planned.

The final variances had to do with storm water management and treatment, but the developers were not seeking reductions. Instead, they were offering a more modern method to improve on the current ordinances. The method will include a series of step ponds and water throughways that will control the flow of water and filter it more effectively than any required system. The developer called it the most comprehensive drainage plan in the county and board member Rick Burns agreed.

“I’m looking at this and I’m very impressed,” Burns said.

The attorney for the developers Todd Leath said that granting those eight variances will allow the project planning to enter the next phase, which is important with the hospital scheduled to open in 13 months.

The developer also requested variances in roadway width requirements in the R1 area, but the board tabled those requests until the next meeting so members could visit a similar community for a reference point. Concerns about snow removal and traffic safety in tight eyebrow-shaped roads led to the tabling.



Posted 10/7/2011