Chesterton Tribune

Planners favor Holiday Inn Express at Indian Oak

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By PAULENE POPARAD

“We’ll get started as soon as we can, but first we’ve got a little business with the Town Council,” attorney Greg Babcock told the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission last night.

Commission members had just voted 6-0 with Jeff Trout absent to recommend that the Town Council amend the development plan for Indian Oak Mall to include a new 80-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites south of Walgreens and west of Indiana 49.

The council will be asked to vacate two Indian Oak easements needed for the project as well.

Dr. Jamil Ahmed of Chesterton, a principal in Cosmos Hospitality Services LLC, said his group is ready to make the $6 million investment that will bring initial construction jobs, 25-30 hotel jobs, and the purchase of goods and services from local vendors.

Occupancy tentatively is slated for 2013. Ahmed is an owner of the Microtel by Wyndham in Michigan City.

Babcock, representing Cosmos, said the vacant land where the Holiday Inn will be built now generates about $14,000 a year in property taxes compared to the Best Western hotel just west of there that pays $32,000 annually.

A hotel use is permitted on the four lots at Indian Oak so it primarily was variances from the 1977 mall’s signage restrictions that Cosmos needs.

At a previous preliminary hearing some commission members indicated they could not support a 69 foot-tall freestanding Holiday Inn sign; Babcock announced Thursday the height was being reduced to 46 feet, comparable to an existing 43 foot-tall sign north of the Cosmos lots, he said.

At 46 feet the sign still will be 28 feet taller than the ordinance allows. Babcock said Holiday Inn needs to compete with other hotels at the Indiana 49/Indian Boundary Road intersection, especially for motorists exiting Interstate 94 to the north when the Walgreens building partially will block the hotel’s north side.

The gross surface area of the two-sided freestanding sign would be 318 square feet, a variance of 198 square feet. Babcock said 318 square feet is one-third of the existing signage for two nearby parcels.

Additional sign variances were recommended for approval by the Town Council.

Responding to a previous commission concern, Babcock confirmed a 30-foot easement will be retained to access vacant acreage south of the Holiday Inn. He also noted existing culverts bringing stormwater from the east side of Indiana 49 to Lake Palomara south of Indian Oak Mall will be preserved but modified to accomodate the hotel project.

Cosmos wants to build the hotel at a height of 39 feet or 4 feet taller than allowed yet still serviceable by the Chesterton Fire Department. Commission president Sig Niepokoj questioned why the plans show the hotel will be 50 feet tall.

Babcock and town building commissioner Dave Novak said decorative additions like porticos and cupolas don’t count toward height, just the building structure itself.

Commission member George Stone said with the amendments offered last night, the hotel should be a great addition to the town. Agreed Babcock, “I think it will be an exciting investment on a site that has sat vacant for some time.”

No one commented either for or against the Cosmos petition during a required public hearing.

Three people attended the meeting including Denise Starkey of Nisource, who had filed for and was granted by a 6-0 vote an extension to April, 2013 to have sidewalks installed at the Village Green Townhomes at Coffee Creek Center. She posted a $98,802 letter of credit to guarantee the work will be done.

The approval was contingent on verifying paperwork Starkey submitted at the town hall but wasn’t received by the Plan Commission secretary. Earlier Babcock referred to a drawing he submitted but commission members did not receive.

By unanimous vote the commission also approved a stop-work order be placed on Abercrombie Woods Phase 3 if the town hall had not received payment, as of last night’s meeting, guaranteeing sidewalk installation.

 

Posted 10/21/2011