Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Jackson Township campground rezoning tabled again

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Once again a decision on Sand Creek Campground’s zoning request has been delayed because the members of the Planning Commission and the property owners’ attorney need more time to get needed information.

With the campground owners, their newly hired attorney, William Ferngren and Brent Wagner, the project architect coming to this week’s Plan Commission meeting, many of the questions carried over from last month’s hearing remained unanswered.

Valparaiso Attorney, William Ferngren told the board he had just been hired that day, and had not had time to become familiar with the zoning request or the proposed project, he only knew that the petition had not been changed.

“I went to the site this afternoon, read an article in the Chesterton Tribune and I understand that the commission has some questions.” Ferngren said.

During last month’s meeting the commission felt they were at a disadvantage because the property owner was not present to answer their questions. At Wednesday’s meeting the two identified owners, Jong In Lee and his father, Hae Suk Lee, were in attendance.

At stake is the commission recommendation that the property be rezoned from RR1 to P2 under the county’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Lee submitted the rezoning petition, after the county told him that his plan to renovate a building at the campground would require a change in zoning.

The rezoning process starts with a recommendation by the Planning Commission to the County Commissioners.

Plan Commission President and Center District County Commissioner Nancy Adams explained that should the P2 rezoning request be approved, it would open the door for expanded uses beyond the current seasonal camping designation.

Adams said, “In the future the property could become many other things from a country club to a paint ball camp.”

Several of the commission members, including Adams, have made visits to the campground to investigate claims made by local residents about vehicles, campers and mobile homes being stored year around. Residents of the area had complained that people live on the property throughout the year. The campground is advertised as only being open from May until October.

Ferngren assured Adams and the commission, the property was not going to become a trailer court or storage yard.

Adams said she observed vehicles with skirting around them and garbage piled up in disposal units, which gave her reason to believe people lived there year around.

There have been some residents who believe the site is being used as a storage facility in addition to being a campground. Commission member Tim Cole, said during a recent visit he saw unplated or improperly licensed vehicles.

The sought after P2 zoning would not allow the property to be used as a storage facility for any type of recreational vehicles.

Wednesday Jong In Lee responded to these observations telling the commission that vehicles currently parked there belong to either workers or the property’s manager. All are plated. Lee added that a wrecked car and old refrigerator, have been removed.

Cole asked Lee, “If we go there again will we find all the vehicles parked there are plated properly and recreational vehicles are licensed accordingly?”

Lee assured Cole this would be the case.

Some commission members suggested that instead of re-zoning, that a variance to the current RR 1 classification with conditions be considered. Kevin Brietzke, member and the County’s Surveyor, explained the variance could list all the conditions, including one that at the end of the camping season all vehicles would have to be removed.

“We could let them build their requested building, continue as a campground, but restrict future changes such as it becoming a paint ball park.”

Commission member, Elizabeth Marshall rejected this idea saying that her experience has been these conditions are usually forgotten with the passing of time.

Residents living near the campground praised the work the plan commission has done on the rezoning request. Nearby property owner Allan Stirling said that many of the commission members have visited the site as promised at last month’s meeting.

“They are doing a great job, I only wish they would have given us a sooner notice of tonight’s meeting, so that more residents could have attended.”

One of the concerns has been if the septic system is adequate for the capacity of the park. Though Wagner reported that the septic system had been upgraded and now has a 500-gallon tank for occupants wastes and a 1500-gallon tank used as a dumping station for recreational vehicles, the question remained of what is the occupant capacity of the park.

Wagner and the other property representatives present did not have the park’s occupant capacity readily at hand.

Member Herb Read questioned how the septic system’s capacity relates to the number of people who use the site during the camping season.

Read said, “It makes a big difference if there are 50 or 100 people using the septic system.”

After the meeting Donald Keane, who lives in nearby Windermere, an upscale subdivision located south of the campground, said he to wanted to know what the septic systems capacity meant in terms that can be understood to homeowners in the area.

“In rural areas, owners who want to build a house must have an acre of land to accommodate a septic system for an average of 4 occupants. I would like to know if this same standard applies to the campground.”

Keane said that his property abuts the campground and last year campers were backed up to the fence that separates his property from the campers. He said this was not an authorized expansion.

It was asked, by a show of hands, how many local residents were at the meeting. None of the approximate 15 residents were given the opportunity to speak.

Keane said, “ We came here to be heard and were not given the chance.”

The board voted 7-0 to delay further discussion until the next regular meeting scheduled for May 11.



Posted 4/14/2011




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