That’s what the Porter County Board of Appeals said to those petitioning for
a use variance to turn the former landscaping building on 884 N. CR 100W
across from Ruge Meats into a location where traveling youth
softball/baseball teams can hold their practice year-round.
Attorney Todd Leeth presented the case for property owners Richard and
Carolyn Gandy. Their daughter Denise Price saw a need for a new practice
facility, something that would benefit her 14 year-old daughter and other
children in sports, and believed her dad’s landscaping shop held the
“I was looking at it from the perspective of a mom,” said Price. “This will
fulfill a need that we really have in the community.”
Once it is up and running, the center will have at least two batting cages,
a reception area, and rooms where teams can meet with their coaches. Price
said more amenities may be added as time goes on and will likely open up to
more types of sports teams like soccer.
The facility may be ready for use this fall, said Price’s husband who plans
to spruce up the building giving it a coat of red paint and changing the
sliding doors in front to overhead doors.
Leeth said there are 3,200 youths from the area involved in baseball or
softball. Groups like the Liberty Township Recreation Group, team managers
and neighbors have all submitted letters in support of the project.
The business will be for practice only and will not be used to host games or
“It will all be indoors so the teams can hone their skills year-round,” said
As far as possible concerns, Leeth said he saw none since the traffic is
typically light (only two multiple-vehicle collisions have occurred on the
roadways in the past seven years). He also said no drainage will be impacted
since the facility will use gravel parking lots instead of concrete or other
However, that didn’t stop a few neighbors from expressing drainage concerns.
Neighbor Sue Anderson said the area is heavily agricultural and there are
some older farm drainage tiles in disrepair. She said she has consulted the
county surveyor who told her funds are not available for repair work.
Anderson said she approves the business but neighbors could see drainage
woes when the practice facility puts in a new septic field.
More residents questioned possible traffic issues and issues with youth
teams waiting outside to use the facility.
Leeth said the business will have scheduling for only two teams at a time
with a transition period so none will have to wait and said a site review
and development plan will be discussed with the county on implementing a
BZA members seemed enthusiastic about the proposed facility, recalling
memories of taking their kids to practice their game, such as when Dogwood
Park in Chesterton had batting cages years ago.
However, members Rick Burns and Marvin Brickner raised concerns of their own
saying that equipment and dirt piles are still present on site from when
Gandy had his landscaping business.
The owners are in the process of cleaning up the area and Gandy said someone
will be taking the dirt, but said it could be a year or longer before
everything is completely removed.
The BZA asked Gandy to have the site completely cleared by June 2013 as part
of a motion to approve the project. They also ordered that no equipment be
moved at any time teams would be using the facility.
The motion met with unanimous approval, the vote 5-0.
The board inquired what the hours of operation would be. While school is in
session, Price said the hours will be Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to
8:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
During the summer and winter school breaks, the facility will be open a few
Price said she would be the sole employee of the business and would be in
charge of scheduling teams and players wanting to use the batting cages.
In other business, the BZA also unanimously approved a variance for a 55
acre solar farm sought by Portage Solar LLC near the intersection of Robbins
Road and Samuelson Road despite allegations by Brickner and fellow BZA
member Luther Williams the facility would have little economic benefit.
The board previously turned down a solar farm facility in Union Twp. which
resulted in a lawsuit claiming the county’s Unified Development Ordinance
does not include sections on solar farms while a state law decrees county
boards are to refrain from prohibiting such facilities.