By VICKI URBANIK
The new Porter hospital planned at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 was granted all the
variances requested from the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals Wednesday.
Hospital officials sought seven variances from the county’s development
ordinance on signage, entrance width, curbing, parking and buffer areas.
Attorney William Ferngren, representing Porter hospital, said the number of
variances is minimal given the large scope and size of the approximately $200
Only one person – Gerald Hebert, representing the Liberty Landowners
Association – spoke out against the variances during the BZA’s public hearing
Hebert reminded the BZA that the landowners have filed a lawsuit against the
county for its decision to rezone the 104 acres from Residential to
Institutional, and that the BZA should not take any action on the variances
at this time. But BZA attorney Scott McClure advised the BZA that it could
Among those who spoke in support of the variances was Chesterton Town Council
member Jeff Trout, who said the town “enthusiastically supports” the new
hospital and the decision to locate it north of U.S. 6, where much of the
county’s future growth appears to be.
Trout said the town is ready to “lend help and support to the hospital’s
Earlier this year, Chesterton officials expressed a willingness to extend
sewer service to the new hospital, with an official vote in March to begin
calculating the costs.
Three of the hospital’s requested variances dealt with temporary signage.
Ferngren said that because the property is large and heavily wooded, people
driving quickly past on Ind. 49 would not be able to see a hospital sign if
the county’s typical rules were followed.
The variances sought will allow 20-foot by 15-foot signs, at a height of 21
feet, one facing Ind. 49 and one facing U.S. 6.
Speaking in support of the larger signage was Rex Richards, president of the
Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. He said the new hospital is a
tremendous boon for the county that will improve the quality of life for
everyone. He said it’s important that signage should be as large as possible
to alert people that the hospital is coming to that location.
Another variance dealt with the entrance to the hospital off U.S. 6. County
rules normally would require a width of up to 40 feet. But at that width,
Ferngren said, it would be impossible to accommodate two-way traffic and turn
lanes; instead, the entranceway is estimated to need 100 feet.
Another variance dealt with curbing and striping in the driving lanes.
In keeping with the county’s directive to develop the hospital as “green” as
possible, Ferngren said best-management practices for stormwater drainage
will be used in the parking lot, with plans calling for water to move through
landscaped islands that will filter the water.
BZA President Marv Brickner said he feels that curbing the driving lanes is a
necessity. Ferngren and other hospital representatives said curbing is still
planned, but just not in the areas needed for drainage. They agreed to curb
at least 70 percent of the driving lanes, which was acceptable to the BZA.
The overall plans prompted a few compliments from the BZA.
BZA member Luther Williams said he went to the Valparaiso hospital earlier in
the day and had to walk a quarter of mile from his parking space. He praised
the parking plans, which call for parking to be located around the centrally
located hospital. “That layout is really neat,” he said.
BZA member Rick Burns also commended the plans. He said he visited two
hospitals in California and found that their layout is practically the same
as Porter’s. However, he noted that the plan commission is considering
amending the county’s landscaping ordinance, and he called on the hospital to
consider adding larger trees than what’s now required.
In the end, the BZA granted all of the variances, but with a few
stipulations. The temporary signage variance was approved but for a
three-year duration. The BZA granted the variance requesting no striping in
the entranceway, but stipulated that there will be at least 70 percent
curbing and partial striping in the parking lot. The entry variance was
limited to a maximum of 100 feet, and the hospital was directed to work with
the plan commission to enhance its landscaping plan.
Before construction begins, the hospital still needs to go through the Porter
County Plan Commission’s development review process, at which time all the
construction details, such as drainage and traffic, will be addressed.