Chesterton Tribune

What price jobs? Planners mull future of Chesterton

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Does Chesterton want to develop as a bedroom community, primarily residential with supporting commercial/retail but few industrial job opportunities?

Or would its residents be happier to keep traffic and bustle away from where they live, even if it costs them more in property taxes to enjoy that quality of life?

Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission members walked that fine line Wednesday during a nearly three-hour workshop called to discuss draft revisions to the town’s 2004 comprehensive plan.

The commission agreed to consider what likely would be a final draft of the new plan at its Feb. 18 meeting and conduct a public hearing March 18. Final adoption would be up to the Town Council.

To what degree the public cares about the plan remains to be seen. Last night one person other than town officials, consultants and a reporter attended the public meeting.

Significant time was devoted to the proposed land-use map which paints the town in broad strokes as opposed to the zoning map and zoning ordinance that specifically govern intended development.

Commented commission member George Stone, “We talk about having balanced growth in Chesterton, but I noticed there’s a tremendous reduction in land set aside for business and industrial use. That worries me.”

He and member Jeff Trout suggested, and the commission later concurred, restoring the possibility of business/industrial uses somewhere between U.S. 20 and Interstate 94 east of Indiana 49, now generally beyond town boundaries.

The update’s long-range planning area leaves little room for town growth on the north and west but extends to County Road 900 North on the south and County Road 350 East on the east; it was noted Chesterton only accepts voluntary annexations and all newly annexed property comes in as residential zoning to assure maximum town input and review.

Consultant A.J. Monroe of Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. of Munster, whose team is spearheading the planning update, said placing business/industrial uses on a map can’t be done in isolation.

While Trout said the U.S. 20/Interstate 94 triangle bisected by County Road 1400 North and a railroad possibly could house an Ameriplex-type development like that in Portage along Interstate 94, Monroe said in Chesterton’s case that land is neighbored by a national park and residential uses in Porter County.

Commission president Fred Owens said if the land triangle remains a residential use and someone proposes to build a shingle plant there, the town would have a hard time justifying a change in its comprehensive plan.

Monroe referred to a map of existing land uses surrounding Chesterton including considerable industrial land in Burns Harbor and some in Porter. “The problem is we don’t share the taxes on them,” said Stone.

Residential development typically requires more municipal services yet pays less property taxes while business/industrial development requires fewer services and contributes more taxes.

Monroe said since Chesterton is looking long-range, business/industrial growth could occur on the east side of Indiana 149 if a new interchange is built at the Indiana Toll Road, and on the west side of Indiana 49 between County Road 950 North and the Toll Road.

Chesterton currently has a few pockets of industrially zoned and/or industrially occupied land.

Owens asked if there would be a way to provide for business uses on the east side of Indiana 49 to serve the developing area along County Road 250 East and County Road 1050 North. Monroe said with land reserved for a major town park there as well as a large, vacant Duneland School Corp. tract and families all around, residential uses make sense.

Monroe said the need is more about improving the transportation plan --- upgrading 1050N and Burdick Road and extending Dickinson Road --- to improve carrying capacity east of Indiana 49 and get rural town residents to developed shopping areas.

He also explained that the future land-use map is layered with wetlands, woodlands and natural corridors so what may appear to be designated a green open-space use isn’t necessarily so, especially if the land is already platted.

On another matter Stone, who is on record opposed to gated communities, asked that a policy statement that encourages “a range of housing types and neighborhood choices for all ages” be expanded to include “and income levels.”

Commission member Sig Niepokoj asked if the Indiana Department of Transportation would allow landscaping the Indiana 49 median between Indian Boundary Road and the Toll Road. Monroe said it’s possible but the community likely would have to take the lead and maintain the median, perhaps similar to an “adopt-a-highway” program.

 

Posted 1/7/2010