Donít call it a town center any more.
Burns Harbor residents agreed Tuesday itís less confusing to describe a
specific proposal for about 40 acres at the northwest quadrant of Indiana
149 and U.S. 20 as a downtown business district. It would have shops,
offices, eateries and potentially up to 340 condominiums, townhomes and/or
Phyllis Constantine said too many residents are confusing a town center with
building a new town hall and it would be better to clearly separate the two;
the current town offices are not being moved.
Zoning consultant Bob Kost of Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. said by any
name the proposed development would have the same goals: a great place to
live, work and recreate in a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere anchored by a
central green space where festivals could take place and parades begin.
The density of multi-family housing --- which could prove controversial in a
town that now has virtually none --- is needed, said Kost, to support the
neighborhood businesses in a downtown. The downtown district abuts and would
have connections to 200-home The Village subdivision, but Kost said he
believes if developed well, the business district would be unique and draw
people from outside the town because of its proximity to major highways.
In fact, he said because of its location and with the townís new zoning
ordinance, comprehensive and business-district plans up for final
consideration within 60 days, the building blocks will be in place for Burns
Harbor to get the jump on other communities trying to get similar centers
off the ground.
Five landowners would be involved in the proposed Burns Harbor business
district and The Village developer Cliff Fleming said some of them having
frontage along U.S. 20 already are cooperating with each other. Landowners
who donít want to be part of the plan at this time could remain as they are.
The new business district includes a portion of land on the south side of
U.S. 20 that would extend south to Old Porter Road. Kost said limited access
by using cross easements through parking lots would make travel safer.
Gordon McCormick said Old Porter is a terrible road and would have to be
rebuilt with sidewalks, but who would pay? Kost said a combination of town,
developer and grant money could be used or either alone.
Kost said a good percentage of the multi-family housing, some in three-story
25 to 30-unit buildings, would be owner-occupied. The residential portion of
the business district is on its north end. Fielding questions about possible
future deterioration of the buildings, Kost said good management should
There currently is an excess of single-family detached homes in the larger
area with approximately a 15-year supply, Kost explained, adding that
college students and aging parents often need other living options. Also,
downtown business owners could live and work in the same location with
Town Plan Commission president Jeff Freeze said the housing bubble has burst
and in the future with some home loans requiring 20 percent down, people
will find long-term rentals attractive.
The business district ends near existing single-family homes along Lively
and McCoy lanes but does not include them. A.J. Monroe of SEH strongly
discouraged rezoning that area. Even though the comprehensive plan may show
another use in the future, it can stay residential for the time being and be
rezoned as the homes are sold and torn down, he recommended.
New or amended
Earlier in the evening residents helping SEH prepare an updated zoning
ordinance met with Kost and Monroe, but questions arose over the extent of
the changes. Long-time town Board of Zoning Appeals member Terry Swanson
asked why residential zoning was being changed to Z rather than R
designations saying it will be too confusing.
Members of town boards and commissions and town employees all need to know
their own ordinances, said Swanson. ďWhat I see here, this is worse than
starting all over again. Iím not saying what youíre doing is wrong. I like
some of what is in here (but) itís going to take years to find whatís
Kost said SEH had indicated it would be providing a new zoning ordinance.
Town Councilman Cliff Fleming said it was his recollection the final product
would be a combination of both the current 1995 ordinance and new
At a March 2 meeting, Swanson asked SEH consultants directly, ďAre you
reviewing our zoning ordinance and making suggested changes or is it a new
zoning ordinance youíll try to make fit?Ē
At that time Matt Reardon of SEH said that depends on the town Plan
Commission, adding that most of what had been discussed to that point could
fit in the current zoning ordinance with additions. Swanson replied that was
an excellent way to proceed.
SEHís proposed zoning ordinance contains maximum lot sizes; the current
ordinance addresses lot minimums.
Kost said after reviewing Burns Harborís zoning, itís too outdated. ďThe
world you live in is very different from 10 years ago. If you think thereís
always going to be $2 per-gallon gas, no one will walk anywhere and drive in
places that arenít sustainable, we can toss everything out about walkability.
"This (new) zoning ordinance is holding your feet to the fire. If you want
business as usual and to consume all the resources, we can update your
current zoning ordinance in two days and be done.Ē Kost noted subdivisions
platted in Burns Harbor over the last five years have smaller lots. The
zoning work group plans to meet again for several hours next week.