The Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously Wednesday 5-0 in
support of a petition to allow a new 10,000 square-foot church on the
southeast corner of Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in unincorporated Liberty Twp.
About 20 members of the First Christian Church of Chesterton turned out in
support of a use variance that would allow the church to be built in a Rural
Residential zoning district.
Presenting the request, design engineer Steve DeBold of Chester
Architectural Services said the church since 2000 has owned two parcels of
land totaling about 15 and a half acres with the intention of relocating
there with a “solid, existing structure.”
Lead pastor of First Christian Church Tim Wanless said the church is holding
its services at the Duneland YMCA for the time being until construction of
the new building is complete.
“We would just enjoy a building that we could meet in,” Wanless told the
The site currently has a small picnic shelter the church uses for outdoor
events and vacation bible school. It is surrounded by woods and is
accessible by a cul-de-sac that branches from U.S. 6 southward.
Because of its adjacency to the new Porter Regional Hospital, potential
traffic issues were on the minds of the BZA members.
“It (traffic) should be the number one concern,” said BZA member and Liberty
Twp. resident Tim Cole. He said approaching the site from the west is more
difficult than approaching from the east and suggested the church should
ultimately find alternate routes to mitigate traffic.
Fellow board member Marvin Brickner said his main worry regards drainage
conditions since the site sits in a low area.
DeBold said the plans include a new septic and water system and the site
will adhere to the county’s stormwater code. The site will also be kept in
its natural state as much as possible and there are no plans currently to
As for the traffic, Wanless said his church sees on average 130 people at
two Sunday services starting at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and would not plan for
any activities in the evenings other than a Wednesday night prayer service.
The church does not plan for a daycare or similar activities, he said.
If traffic does become a problem, Wanless said the church would hire a
police officer to guide traffic as churchgoers leave after services, similar
to what some of the bigger churches in the area do.
Since service is on a Sunday morning, not as many vehicles are out at the
time as there are during the work week, Wanless said and mentioned the
church may consider additional access points from the highway.
“I really don’t see (traffic) being a problem at all,” said Wanless, who
added that The Courts sports complex directly to the north sees a higher
volume of people and has no major traffic issues.
No one during the public spoke against the request, which Brickner said he
was surprised about, given the residential atmosphere of the area.
“A church back there is going to change the whole complexion to the area,”
The commitments to look out for traffic and drainage persuaded all members
to vote favorably. DeBold said the next step will be to get building plans
over to the plan commission.
Once the church is ready to break ground after obtaining the right permits
and variances, construction should take approximately eight months.
Plans indicate the sanctuary will face westward and include 250 seats.
Parking areas and drives will surround the church.