Minnesota developer Troy Hoekstra agreed to meet with Burns Harbor
department heads and map out what’s needed to bring a 76-room hotel to Burns
Harbor after discussing the project with its Advisory Plan Commission last
The $5.5 million
to $7 million hotel would have up to three additional retail sites likely
developed as restaurants. No specific hotel chain has been identifed at this
Those are the
plans for the 9 acres Hoekstra hopes to contractually exercise control over
that now houses Rainbow Trailer Park, which would have to be demolished and
its tenants relocated.
local attorney Martin Ulferts of Michigan City, who has represented Rainbow
owner Jacob Pasternak’s incorporated company, “We’d like to see the property
confirmed he’s also in contact with a broker possibly to acquire an
additional 9 acres east of Rainbow for expansion of the hotel project.
working in partnership with the Morrissey Hospitality Companies of St. Paul.
The group was a managing partner in the search, acquisition and build-out of
the 414-room, $135 million Key Lime Cove indoor waterpark resort in Gurnee,
meeting Hoekstra said his timetable for the Burns Harbor project is
“yesterday.” However, “All these deals go at their own pace. I’ve had some
grind on for three years, and sometimes they come together in three months.”
president Jeff Freeze told Hoekstra, “This body will do what we can from a
zoning perspective.” Member Gene Weibl welcomed the creation of jobs and
broadening the tax base. Both men are also Town Council members.
determined the hotel project may need a use variance, rezoning, possible
subdivision or designation as a planned unit development. The Town Council,
Sanitary Board and Redevelopment Commission all likely would be involved as
Hoekstra said it’s a nine-month process to vacate a trailer park; while
Indiana doesn’t appear to have similar limitations, he said he wouldn’t
mistreat any park tenants and would provide them adequate notice of
development plans. The number of current tenants wasn’t readily available.
consideration, said Hoekstra, is the amount of infrastructure including
concrete that would have to be removed from the site to build anew. But an
advantage is having the town’s Lakeland Park with fishing, boating and
lifeguarded swimming immediately adjacent to the west.
building the hotel on the west end of the Rainbow property and opening the
existing fence on the park’s east side to facilitate its use by hotel guests
as an “unbelievable amenity.”
said, “That makes me nervous. Unknown people staying there temporarily ---
you know where I’m going.” Replied Hoekstra, “That would definitely be
something to think about.”
He also said
conversation could be started about enlarging the hotel pool and creating
community partnerships for its use during off-peak hours.
conceded highway access to the hotel will be tough to work out. Located at
the Interstate 94 interchange with U.S. 20, guests would have to turn onto
North Babcock Road --- the first part in the town of Porter --- then jog
onto the Rainbow frontage road or realign it.
hotel guests getting off eastbound U.S. 20 from I-94 would be inclined to
cut across four lanes of traffic to turn onto Babcock instead of making the
legal move of going to the next stop light and executing a turn.
Hoekstra said a
Comfort Inn is located at Babcock and U.S. 20, its weekend occupancy is high
so obviously hotel guests can find the site and good things are happening
there, yet the Burns Harbor site seems to be even more of a significant
the town were broadly discussed, like using tax-increment financing (TIF)
revenues to help the project along; Hoekstra said investor groups sometime
do a self-imposed lodging tax that hopefully is used for improvements at the
attorney Chuck Parkinson said Indiana doesn’t allow municipalities to impose
local option taxes, and Burns Harbor doesn’t have any surplus TIF money
because its annual collections go to repay a sewer bond. Tonight, the Town
Council will consider a tax-abatement extension for ArcelorMittal, a package
that includes Mittal’s commitment to make the remaining sewer payments
freeing up about $500,000 in TIF funds each year.
Freeze said the
town has adequate capacity at its sewage treatment plant for the hotel.
Sanitation superintendent Bill Arney said it appears the Rainbow lift
station could be eliminated and with a system upgrade the hotel-project
effluent pumped directly into the town’s main line.
inquired about local property taxes as they will weigh heavily on project
evaluation. Burns Harbor has one of the lowest municipal tax rates in Porter
County, and Parkinson said Indiana caps property taxes at a maximum 3
Hoekstra talk to the town Redevelopment Commission about potential financing
incentives. Said Hoekstra, “You can’t just run around the countryside
looking for free money. There’s other ways to make it work.”
members Jan Hines, Jim McGee and Marcus Rogala were absent. Attending the
meeting was Town Councilman Greg Miller.