Chesterton Tribune

Porter County BZA clears path for new sports practice center in Liberty Township

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Swing away.

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 potential.

“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 tournaments.

“It will all be indoors so the teams can hone their skills year-round,” said Leeth.

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 impervious surfaces.

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 septic system.

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 hours earlier.

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.

Portage Solar Farm

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.

 

 

 

Posted 3/22/2012