Chesterton Tribune

Council approves what may be Chesterton's biggest commercial development ever

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By KEVIN NEVERS

It has the potential to be the single largest commercial planned unit development ever pursued in the Town of Chesterton, if built to the maximum square footage permitted in the PUD ordinance: 430,000.

At its meeting Monday night, the Town Council voted 5-0 to approve on first reading the PUD ordinance for the Coffee Creek Crossing, 5-0 to suspend the rules, then 5-0 to approve it on final reading.

Members did so over the continuing objections voiced mostly by neighbors of the proposed mall, residents of unincorporated Liberty Township. The PUD ordinance came to council with the unanimous endorsement of the Advisory Plan Commission, which held a public hearing at its July meeting.

Coffee Creek Crossing is proposed for development on property annexed last year south of the Indiana Toll Road and east of Ind. 49. Under the terms of the PUD ordinance, it will be strictly commercial in nature, although the petitioner, I-80 Partners LLC—whose principal is Bob Rossman—informed the council in 2007, when the land was annexed, that the development would be mixed-use, with commercial to the west and unspecified residential to the east.

Of the 51.17 acres in the PUD district, 38.19 would be dedicated to commercial/retail/business, 11.31 to open space, and 1.67 to rights of way. The 38.19 acres dedicated to commercial would be divided among five lots:

•A single one-story retail building not to exceed 20,000 square feet will be built on each of four lots.

•The fifth lot would be further subdivided into no more than five lots containing no more than a total of eight buildings, including an anchor building not to exceed 175,000 square feet. The total square footage of all eight buildings on the fifth lot would not exceed 350,000.

•The uses of the property would be limited to B-3, with three additional permitted uses—a health and fitness center, a parking structure, and an environmental conservation area and preserve—and a number of prohibited uses: among them, adult entertainment center, antique shop, flea market, blood bank, bowling alley, coin laundry, massage parlor, mobile home sales, night club, off-track betting, pool hall, odd-lot or closeout store, video arcade, and skating rink.

•The PUD ordinance does include a variance from the Zoning Ordinance to permit five-story buildings, not to exceed 70 feet in height, on Lot 5.

•The mall would be developed in two phases. In the first phase the four smaller commercial lots would be developed on the west side of the property as well as a sixth lot on the east side for stormwater management. Also in the first phase the intersection of North Calumet Ave. and Ind. 49 would be realigned, with traffic signals placed at that realigned intersection and at the main entrance of the mall. Construction of the infrastructure for Phase I would commence in March 2009 and be competed around December 2009.

•In the second phase, after specific building uses have been defined, the main commercial lot would be developed and possibly subdivided into no more than five lots. Development “include a retail, office, or medical anchor and may be further subdivided,” the PUD ordinance reads. Phase II is planned to commence in January 2011 with an estimated completion date of November 2011.

•A traffic impact analysis, its cost paid by the petitioner, must be completed by an independent consultant approved by the Plan Commission, whose analysis would be reviewed and approved at the time of primary plat.

Objections

Nineteen people remonstrated against the PUD ordinance at the public hearing convened by the Plan Commission. Only five people did on Monday. Three of them were residents of unincorporated Liberty Township.

Mary Seguin warned the council that big box stores—rumors have been circulating about a Wal-Mart—“historically destroy local and family-owned businesses.” In any case, she said, the retail market is already “saturated.” Sequin also objected to the light and noise pollution which the PUD would cause and urged the council to be more “creative.” This plan, she said, “lacks vision and is short-sighted.”

Pat Seguin, also from Liberty Township, said that big boxes in general and Wal-Mart in particular “don’t seem to create jobs. They just transfer them.” And he cautioned the council against the fickleness of the market. “We live here,” Seguin said. “The developers don’t. They take a shot and if it doesn’t work, they go. We’re stuck here. I hope five to 10 years from now we don’t have a hole there that could have been used for something else.”

J.F. Schrader, a Liberty Township resident as well, told members that they are “not considering the people around here very much” and are “trying to turn the whole community upside down and inside out.”

Paul Tharp, on the other hand, a Chesterton resident, raised his concerns about the realignment and signalization of the intersection of Ind. 49 and North Calumet Ave. Should INDOT one day approve a signal for the intersection of Ind. 49 and Voyage Blvd., he said, the Town of Chesterton would have fully seven stop lights along its short stretch of Ind. 49, compared to only three along the stretch of Ind. 49 in the City of Valparaiso. Tharp also said that it is “ludicrous” to re-route North Calumet Ave. through Coffee Creek Crossing itself and compared doing so to re-routing Ind. 49 through the Indian Oak Mall.

Finally, Al Rioli, a Porter resident, said that he expects Coffee Creek Crossing to have a “negative impact on the stores of Downtown Chesterton.” As it is, Rioli noted, the old WiseWay on Broadway remains empty as does the old Range Masters off South Calumet Road. “This is the wrong kind of growth for the town.”

Response

Members voted in favor of the PUD ordinance without comment. Each took a moment at the end of the meeting to address the objections from the floor.

Thus Member Dave Cincoski, R-3rd, in response to Rioli, noted that “it’s not the town’s responsibility to fill vacant buildings.” A number of those vacant buildings, he added, are currently up for sale or “are being re-worked.” The Dairy Queen on Indian Boundary Road was one of those vacant buildings, he said by way of example, and now it’s up and running with an additional business on site. “That bodes well for Chesterton’s commercial growth, and I believe this PUD will be a great enhancement for this town.”

Member Sharon Darnell, D-4th, herself a resident of Crocker, took issue with “this continuous accusation that the Town of Chesterton doesn’t care because these people are from Liberty Township.” The real issue is this, she said: the Liberty Landowners Association has filed suit against the Porter County Commissioners, objecting to the re-zoning of property at Ind. 49 and U.S. Highway 6, “and if they don’t want a hospital, a good industry like that, what do they want?”

Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd, agreed with Darnell that the Liberty Landowners Association has damaged its credibility by objecting to the hospital re-zoning. “They’re against anything that could be built,” he said. “so they can’t be taken seriously. If they don’t want a hospital, they don’t want anything, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, had a word to say about people who object to development “in their own backyard.” He also said that many of the statements made by remonstrators “are not true” and urged them “to do their homework, work with us, not against us, and be part of the solution.”

President Jim Ton, R-1st, observed that “all citizens have a right to dispose of their property as they see fit. They sold it. They have a right to be annexed.” The Town Council, meanwhile, has “the obligation to control growth on its borders. We’re either going to control development or it’s going to control us.”

 

Posted 7/29/2008