Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Planners would ban truck freight terminals from most of Burns Harbor

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The Burns Harbor Advisory Plan Commission has spoken: no more freight terminals except in the lone heavy-industrial zoning district at ArcelorMittal.

Now it will be up to the Town Council to decide whether to follow that recommendation and delete “freight terminal” as a permitted use with a special exception in three other zoning districts. A use variance still could be sought.

Two people tied to a lawsuit over the last freight-terminal request that was denied Aug. 24 remonstrated against the zoning change at Monday’s Plan Commission public hearing. No one spoke in favor.

A lawsuit was filed last month against the town Board of Zoning Appeals by the Town Council and 10 local businesses hoping to overturn BZA approval of a 250 semi-truck parking lot as a “freight terminal” expansion of CR England’s current operations.

England’s attorney, Terry Hiestand, and developer Jeff Brant, in whose Tech Business Center England is located, commented Monday.

Plan Commission attorney Chuck Parkinson emphasized that any variances or special exceptions currently in place would remain legal and not be affected by the freight-terminal change. He noted the reason for the change, initiated by the Plan Commission, is to have less-intensive truck use in town.

Hiestand said the proposed zoning amendment would deny the economic reality of today while waiting for a rosy vision of Burns Harbor outlined in its new comprehensive plan. Property owners would be denied the highest and best use of their land based on plans that may never materialize, he added.

“The Plan Commission and the Town Council need to be mindful of measures which consign properties to economic limbo on the off chance that current aspiration rhetoric might bear fruit forty to fifty years from now,” said Hiestand in a written statement. “Saying you believe in sugar plum fairies doesn’t mean they exist.”

Brant said truck traffic is part of a viable community providing needed employment and a solid tax base. “I don’t see any need for passing the ordinance in front of you now.”

Commission member and town marshal Jerry Price said, “I don’t hear anything about the safety of people who go up and down those roadways.” And as for adding parking for 250 more trucks? “We not only have way too many as we speak; we certainly don’t need any more,” Price continued.

He said Sept. 21 he counted 74 tractor-trailers entering and leaving Tech Drive at Indiana 149 between 7:35 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. “I believe we have more than enough,” including those operating for England’s semi-truck driving school, added Price.

Commission president Jeff Freeze said the steel processing plants located in Tech Business Center won’t be affected by a future freight-terminal restriction.

Commission and BZA member Terry Swanson said, “If this puts us more in line with the master plan and other parts of the zoning ordinance, I’ll go for it. Less inconsistency.”

Vote was 5-1 to recommend the freight-terminal change to the Town Council. Commission and council member Jim McGee was absent; Price voted no but later said he erred and meant to vote yes.

The Town Council next meets Oct. 13 and could consider the Plan Commission’s recommendation.

 

 

 

 Posted 10/5/2010

 

 

 

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