A Liberty Twp.
resident’s request to open her former home at 75 E. U.S. Hwy. 6 as a
low-impact bed and breakfast business was unanimously rejected by the Porter
County Board of Zoning appeals last week.
Wallace’s four-bedroom home sits between Porter Regional Hospital at the
corner of Ind. 49 and a large 96-acre parcel belonging to St. Andrews
Development to the west which will be developed as a medical office campus
and residential housing for seniors.
“The board just
felt like it was not a good fit in the area with it being office buildings
and other things that would be going in there,” said BZA President Debbie
Voting no were
the five BZA members Kerr-Cook, Marvin Brickner, Tim Cole, Luther Williams,
and Rick Burns.
property was rezoned from Rural Residential to Commercial Moderate Intensity
last year by the Porter County as a joint request by St. Andrews and three
other adjacent property owners. About 13 acres were zoned to CM while more
than 40 acres of the St. Andrews property were zoned Office and Technology,
and another 20-acre portion was zoned Multiple-family Residential for
assisted living facilities.
Wallace and her
attorney Mike Harris of Harris Welsh & Lukmann of Chesterton said there was
an “agreement to agree” with St. Andrews that they would provide the
homeowners with sewer utilities to their properties but those details never
became formal, so Wallace looked for a use of the property that didn’t need
a sewer hookup and would just use the house.
that the house was “no longer conducive” as a private residence with the
potential of other commercial projects that would be coming to area. “Having
it as a bed and breakfast was what we felt would be the best use of the
Options like a
child-care facility were considered but the B&B idea received support from
her neighbors across the street and the hospital who shared the thought this
could be a real asset, Wallace said. The hospital favored the concept
because candidates for physician positions coming for user interviews could
stay there, she added.
Having worked as
an emergency room physician at St. Anthony’s in Michigan City, Wallace said
there are times when non-local residents traveling through the area would
experience trauma and their families would need to stay somewhere nearby
A letter written
by Family Express, which earlier this year purchased the adjoining parcel to
the east, gave its endorsement and a certification from the Indiana
Department of Transportation would have given the B&B access to U.S. 6
allowing a right-in, right-out entryway.
PowerPoint presentation presented to the BZA by Harris, the petitioners said
the B&B would provide affordable, comfortable lodging. Wallace recently made
renovations to the house, putting in a sauna and an exercise room
downstairs, along with new furniture and a full deck.
parcel would be well-maintained and serve as a buffer from the highway with
plenty of open space, the presentation said.
But during the
meeting Wednesday, BZA attorney Scott McClure raised questions about the
specifications of the property in a commercial district despite the request
was only for a use variance. Wallace said she was going to address
specifications when the proposal would have gone before the plan commission.
BZA member Tim
Cole said his opposition to the request was not just the concept of a B&B
but because it seemed to him to stray from the vision and commitments
originally made by representatives of St. Andrews.
commercial zoning does not include B&Bs, Cole said. When the properties were
rezoned, St. Andrews’ attorney Todd Leeth said his client wished to attract
businesses that would complement the hospital such as a pharmacy/drug store
and a small restaurant so hospital visitors would not have to travel far and
Leeth told the
Tribune last week that the developers and the plan commission
together made a list of uses formally excluded in the zoning area. Those
included automotive oil change stations, gas stations, and tattoo/piercing
But, Leeth said
B&Bs were not excluded and would be permissible if the BZA would grant a use
St. Andrew’s had
not made any remonstrance against Wallace’s request during the meeting.
But Cole argued
that “this (B&B) would be a ‘wall’ between the hospital and St. Andrews.” He
added that the Wallace property has a mortgage and he worried what would
happen if the property would fall into foreclosure, or if someone ends up
buying the property and wants to use it for something else.
“I see this as a
bad business venture,” Cole said.
that Wallace lease the property to a renter for the time being, which is in
fact what Wallace said she intends to do so she can generate some income
from the house.
Wallace said she
is “very dismayed” by the BZA’s decision but she does not intend to try the
request again. Petitions denied by the BZA have to wait at least a year
before they can be submitted again.
Wallace said she
had hoped to open her B&B in March. This would have been the first in
Liberty Twp. and would be a tourist attraction for the area, she added.
“I just thought
it was a positive addition here with the hospital and patients visiting
families,” she said. “We were really excited about this.”
The UDO allows
B&Bs in areas zoned Neighborhood Commercial (CN).
BZA has voted favorably for developments around the U.S. 6 and Ind. 49
Aside from St.
Andrews, the board gave the nod to 36-foot inflatable dome at The Courts,
for new tennis courts, and to a 10,000 square-foot church, to be built by
CrossPointe Christian Church, on the southeast corner.
In July, Family
Express initially requested a lift of the “ban” for gas stations, but
withdrew the request due to opposition. The company is still looking to
develop there but has not announced specific plans.