Chesterton Tribune



Boys and Girls Club relocation to 1100N prompts safety concerns

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Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals member Thomas Browne said South Fifth Street and County Road 1100N is a dangerous intersection, and it will have to be proven that itís a safe area for children to be walking to a new youth center.

The Duneland unit of the Boys & Girls Club of Porter County needs a BZA use variance to relocate from its current home at 135 W. Lincoln Ave. to the former Lighthouse Christian Center at 521 W. 1100N.

Following a preliminary hearing Thursday, the BZA set a public hearing on the petition for Nov. 26. The meeting date was rescheduled due to Thanksgiving Day.

Browne, who lives in the area, said there are no sidewalks in front of the former church on the south side of 1100N between South Fifth Street and the Chesterton High School east property boundary. Children walking to the B&GC would have to walk on private property or in the street, he noted. ďIíve been almost hit myself.Ē

A segment of Chestertonís Westchester-Liberty hike/bike trail is planned along that stretch, but not until 2016. B&GC attorney Greg Babcock said the group is looking at dedicating needed right-of-way for the trail.

Browne said the town should step up now to resolve a dangerous situation including clearing overgrown brush that hinders visibility at the southeast corner of the intersection. He also asked for the latest traffic count taken for that area.

Ryan Smiley, president of the B&GC, said not many students would walk to the club from CHS and children who come from nearby Bailly Elementary and Westchester Intermediate during the school year are transported on Duneland School Corp. shuttles.

The Chesterton B&GC has 360 registered members. When school is in session the club is open from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. serving an average 141 children during the school day and about 42 children for various programs when school isnít in session.

These include supervised activities; mentoring; homework, reading and math assistance; after-school care; and programs that promote real-life skills like a student-run snack shop to teach small-business ownership.

Pending BZA approval the 501c-3 non-profit club plans to buy the former church and its 9 acres, which includes entrances off both South Fifth Street and 1100N but not the house on the southwest corner. Babcock said the new site is attractive because the other B&GC locations in Valparaiso, Portage and South Haven do not have as large an open, grassy play area as Chestertonís would.

Relocating the B&GC also would allow the local facility to gain about 2,000 square feet of space and access to a gymnasium/multi-purpose room.

Babcock said the new building has 101 parking spaces and plans are to reface the current monument sign with no additional variances needed. Tanglewood subdivision to the south is separated by a marshy area and a fence.

When granting a use variance the BZA needs to find that the proposed use wonít be injurious to public safety. Browne said if certain problems arenít addressed, it will be hard to satisfy that requirement.



Posted 10/25/2013