Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Plan Commission favors promoting growth around County airport

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Plan Commission voted 6-0 on Wednesday to take a beginning step in “a vision” for the long-term development of a roughly 15-square-mile zone around the Porter County Regional Airport and a new overlay.

Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson gave the panel a quick overview of the 30-year airport zone development plan commissioned by the Porter County Airport Authority. The plan, he said, has been in the works since 2010.

The plan seeks to promote new economic growth and community development, particularly the expansion of industrial and manufacturing businesses. In addition, the study encompasses possible improvements on land use, utilities and infrastructure, intermodal transportation systems, community amenities, enhancements to existing neighborhoods and businesses.

Part of the airport zone crosses into the southeast boundaries of the City of Valparaiso where Ind. 49 crosses over U.S. 30 while much of it is unincorporated lands in Washington Twp. and some of Morgan Twp. south of Division Road. The zone also includes the Eastporte Center business park adjacent to the airport.

Because of the mixture of City and County land, both will have to enter into intergovernmental agreements for any changes of land use, Thompson said. The two government units have worked to develop the plan with the airport authority.

Thompson emphasized the implementation of the plan itself is not a rezoning of the area in any way.

“It’s setting up objectives of how we want this area to develop,” he said.

Valparaiso’s Plan Commission signed off on the 254-page plan at its meeting on Tuesday, Thompson said.

Planner Mitch Peters made the motion to recommend the County Commissioners adopt the plan.

The motion also included an additional overlay for the airport’s north-south runway east of County Road 400 E.

The airport is considering expanding the runway from 5,000 feet to 7,000 feet like its existing east-west runway to attract more airlines.

Plan Commission Vice-President Robert Poparad said the County “has the chance to do this right” by planning ahead now. He mentioned he sat on the Gary/Chicago Airport Board for a few years before rejoining the County Council and now that airport is virtually landlocked because there was no planning for 15 years into the future.

Regional Airport Director Kyle Kuebler said the airport has expanded over the years and can help spur the “shovel-ready sites” that the County is said to lack. The airport changed its title from “municipal airport” to “regional airport” two years ago because it is near U.S. 30 and Ind. 49 which feed traffic into the Interstate system, he said.

“It’s a valuable asset to Porter County,” Kuebler said.

Thompson said the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission projects the employment base of the county will grow by 15,600 jobs between now and 2040. Expansion of the airport plan is part of NIRPC’s 2040 Plan for the Region, he added.

Poparad reiterated Thompson’s comments to clarify that the board’s action is not a rezoning but merely a tool for development with the land zoning as it exists. “It’s a proposal. Nothing is set in stone,” said Poparad.

Thompson said the County Commissioners will have a first reading to accept the plan at their meeting on April 2.

A draft of the 30-year plan “In Plane View” is available for download at www.portercoplan.org

 

Posted 3/15/2013