Chesterton Tribune


Luke Oil planning reconstruction at US 6 and Meridian

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The Porter County Plan Commission on Wednesday heard that the Luke Oil station at 3 East U.S. Hwy. 6 near the Meridian Road intersection in Liberty Township is taking to steps toward a fresh look.

Mike Zell, construction director for Luke Oil, said that the business, including the convenience store, will be “completely demolished” and then rebuilt with upgrades. Zell said the current underground storage tanks will be removed and replaced with new ones.

The final result will look similar to the Luke Oil station at Ind. 149 and U.S. 20 (Melton Rd.) in Burns Harbor, with a brick building. Zell said the design is in the concept phase but the company is planning to put in a stand-alone car wash.

Zell went before the Plan Commission to ask that the parcel be rezoned completely to Moderate Commercial Intensity (CM) before construction starts so the company can be in compliance with the County’s development ordinance. The 4.2 acre parcel currently has two separate classifications, Moderate Commercial Intensity (CM) on the south half and Single-Family Residential (R-1) to the north.

Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson said a parcel with two zoning classifications is an “anomaly” but they do exist in places.

Zell said there is no buildings currently in the area zoned R-1 and the company does not plan to erect any other buildings on it but anticipates some of the new building will spill over some. He said the intent is to develop the building to fit the guidelines spelled out by the County’s U.S. 6 Overlay District.

Planner Bob Poparad questioned if this would present possible conflicts with the residential area to the east. Zell said the plan calls for a buffer.

The concept will be fleshed out when Zell brings it for site review and he said he hopes to begin work right away on the new building.

“We plan to be done in 2013,” Zell said.

“I like the idea,” said planner Rick Burns, which was echoed by nearly all his peers.

The final vote was 9-0 in favor of the rezoning.

Thompson said the recommendation will now move to the County Commissioners who will hear the case on March 5.

County trying ‘snouts’

In another case, the plan commission gave another unanimous nod to developer Jack Barkow’s request to try something new in Timberland Farms Subdivision that has never been done before in Porter County.

The subdivision is located on Meridian Road between U.S. 6 and C.R. 900 North in Liberty Township.

Barkow and attorney William Ferngren told plans of placing several “snouts” instead of using forebays to capture debris and clean water before it goes into a regulated drain.

Stormwater and debris from construction sites would enter through a manhole or sewer grate and be carried to the fiberglass hood-shaped snout which would separate solids from the water.

Ferngren said developers would like to test out the snout system, and if it works the county highway department could maintain and regularly remove the solids from the snout. But during the trial period while construction is going on, the developers will be responsible for maintenance.

Barksow said he spoke with the highway department which agreed they could work out a maintenance schedule.

If the snouts do not work adequately, Ferngren said Timberland Farm developers would revert to using a forebay system as permitted by the County’s Unified Development Ordinance.

The snouts would require a design wavier since they are not part of the UDO, but Ferngren suggested they could one day be added if they are successful at Timberland Farms.

Poparad said he liked the idea but expressed concern that the system might be costly for the county to handle the cleaning.

The planners agreed that it could decide in a year’s time whether it will agree to do the maintenance based on financial feasibility. They do have the option to extend the testing period up to three years or so if needed. Thompson said it sometimes takes that long for new roads to be adopted by the County which would require infrastructure to be put in.

“If we need to extend it, we need to extend it,” said Plan Commission President and County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center.

Planner Tim Cole advised developers to alert the local fire department whenever they plan to burn the captured debris.

From the audience, Robert Cotton of Valparaiso asked if the developers knew of any cases where snouts did not work. Ferngren said he did not know of any.

“We’re confident everything will work. The snouts have been used throughout other areas,” Ferngren said.

Also included in the approved motion were plans for a constructed wetland which was previously approved at a recent development review committee meeting.

Humble Herb

Attending so he could hear discussion, longtime environmentalist and former planner Herb Read seemed surprised when Adams asked him to come up to the front.

“What’s this about?” Read inquired.

Adams then bestowed Read with a plaque and a hug, thanking him for his eight years of service on the plan commission from 2005 to 2012.

“Things are going to be a lot more peaceful,” Read joked in reference to the many questions he often posed to big developers as a member of the plan commission. He thanked the commission and gave a word of advisement, “I will be taking advantage of the public hearing.”

Read’s commission seat is now filled by Mitch Peters.


Posted 2/14/2013