Developer Cliff Fleming said he wants to incorporate environmentally-based
green certification in his proposed The Village at Pope’s Farm of Chesterton
to create a place of value where people want to live and work.
He also wants to offer property-tax exemptions for eligible businesses and
shovel-ready designation to attract quality employers to the
residential/commercial site eyed for 81 acres at the southwest corner of
Indiana 49 and County Road 950N.
Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission members very preliminarily discussed the
project again Thursday with Fleming, and for the first time heard from
Pope’s Farm neighbors. The usual concerns in a zoning review --- traffic,
drainage and density --- were mentioned by both.
Lyle Munn, who with his wife Mary Klein lives at County Road 900N and owns
just under an additional 20 acres there, said they’re taking a neutral
position for the time being but are concerned about water discharge onto
their property; Pope’s Farm would extend south to a railroad right-of-way
near 900N with high-density residential currently designated for that area.
Munn said they have experienced a considerable amount of water since Indiana
49 was rebuilt with neither Porter County nor the Indiana Department of
Transportation willing to help, so drainage is their single largest concern
at this time although others may surface as plans for Pope’s Farm are
Alan Hewitt, a fourth-generation farmer who owns approximately 27 acres in
unincorporated Porter County on the west side of the neo-traditional urban
development, said it’s not compatible with his grain and hog-farming
operations. He also said it’s a waste of money to provide future access from
Pope’s Farm to his land because there will be no connection, and Hewitt
cited additional traffic on 950N as a problem because of the size of his
Both he and Munn said Fleming has been in contact with them for some time;
Fleming said he is very aware of their concerns and will work with his
neighbors to the extent possible. He again stressed Pope’s Farm is in its
early stages of planning.
Also present Thursday were some property owners living on the north side of
950N across from the Pope’s Farm site who wanted to know how they’d be
affected. Fleming said he will make them aware of what’s being planned and
noted that, unlike his land annexed last year, their property is not in the
town of Chesterton.
Plan Commission member Mike Bannon told the neighbors, “If the fear is that
Chesterton will try and annex you, state law changed tremendously in that
regard. It’s almost impossible to do a hostile annexation against (your)
Bannon questioned Fleming about his intent to have the planned unit
development include incentives for business under SEA 448 that would offer
eligible technology-based businesses property tax exemptions if they meet
several conditions. Bannon said it sounds like blanket tax abatement under a
Fleming and his consultant Jeff Ban said no, it would be up to the Town
Council to authorize exemptions on a case-by-case basis, but having that
option as well as a state designation that the site is shovel-ready with
some permitting already in hand will make Pope’s Farm more attractive to
companies wanting to locate there.
In the initial July presentation, Fleming heavily promoted medical-related
businesses for his site’s 14 commercial acres because of the proximity of
the new Community Health Systems Porter hospital campus on U.S. 6 at Indiana
49. Thursday he said he doesn’t want to exclude other options. About 13
acres of retail and 50 acres of residential/green space also are planned.
Commission member George Stone said the key intersection of Indiana 49 and
950N has to be upgraded to serve both Pope’s Farm and the proposed Coffee
Creek Crossing retail development on the east side of Indiana 49. Ban said
for two years they’ve been discussing the matter with INDOT. Stone said also
crucial to Pope’s Farm will be a new north/south connector road from 950N to
900N. Fleming said he has not begun negotiations with the railroad involved,
but time is on his side because he wants to develop a quality project, “not
something that will be sold, boom, gone.”
Bannon, too, said traffic patterns will be a key concern, and overall
density will have a lot to do with that so he’d like density better defined.
Several times Fleming pointed to 640-acre Coffee Creek Center to the
northeast as an example of the pedestrian-oriented type of live/work concept
he hopes to have at Pope’s Farm with the same emphasis on conservation land
Commission president Fred Owens acknowledged the challenge of using green
principles for development, and members Tom Kopko and Sig Niepokoj inquired
about specifics. Fleming said he needs to strike a balance so their plans
are well-received by the market or nothing will happen. Coffee Creek Center
has been slow to develop.
Today kicks off a parade of homes in Fleming’s The Village in Burns Harbor,
the first national single-site event featuring six homes meeting industry
standards for environmental responsibility. The Village was the first
project to receive national certification.
Also Thursday, A.J. Monroe of consultant SEH reported on their efforts to
update the town comprehesive plan, add a downtown overlay section and
enhance the plan’s economic development chapter. The next public open house
is Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall.
Bannon asked what the downtown overlay will do that current town zoning
regulations don’t. Monroe said the downtown boundaries could be expanded and
additional development guidelines proposed; the next step would be to
re-evaluate the zoning ordinance to strengthen development standards.
SEH’s contract is up March 31. Stone said it could take another year to make
the zoning ordinance compatible. “That’s a fair assessment,” said Monroe.
For some time town zoning officials have said Chesterton’s sign ordinance
Commission member Jeff Trout was absent.