Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton Plan Commission hears proposal for $35 million development near Toll Road and 49

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A pitch was made to the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission Thursday for a residential and commercial planned unit development with a potential investment of $35 million at the southeast corner of the Ind. 49 and the Toll Road off North Calumet Ave. in Liberty Twp.

Engineer Matt Reardon, of SEH Inc., along with Derek Tucker, representing the current property owner Fifth Third Bank, presented the Commission with maps showing plans for the 44 acre site with seven acres nearest to the roadway dedicated to commercial and retail purposes, about 30 acres of multi-family residential housing and 11 acres specifically for stormwater management and wetlands.

A PUD had been approved there by the Chesterton Town Council in 2008 for I-80 Partners LLC after the land was annexed in 2007. The terms of that PUD included a mixed-use of commercial to the west and unspecified residential to the east, but to this day the land remains vacant.

The property had been eyed as a possible location for a Wal-Mart store, but the retail giant decided it wasn’t interested, Reardon said, as did Target.

It is also too small to accommodate an industrial building which is why Fifth Third would like to pursue a mix of retail/office and residential, he said. A fueling company has expressed interest.

The residential area would be upscale, Reardon said, with two-story buildings and masonry exterior. There are also plans to put in a trail.

“This is one of the possible uses for this property. You have an active bank that wants to get behind it. That’s a good thing,” Reardon said.

One of the factors that makes this a challenging site is that it borders the North Porter County Conservation Club and gun range, Reardon said. Still, the property will be better priced than what was sold for the nearby Porter Regional Hospital and development will increase the town’s tax base, he said.

Plan Commission president George Stone and other members questioned the use of residential homes for this site given its proximity to the conservation club.

“I look at this as who wants to live sandwiched between a gun range and a toll road?” Stone said.

The gun range is in unincorporated Liberty Twp., outside of Chesterton’s jurisdiction.

Reardon said the situation is comparable to residential developments in Burns Harbor with homes and apartment that are also right on the highway. The concept plan could be adjusted if the town so desires, he added.

The purpose of him and Tucker coming to the meeting was to see if a new PUD is even possible, Reardon said.

He added that Fifth Third intends to move forward carefully and ensure no neighboring property is impacted negatively.

Planner Jeff Trout said the proposal is “180 degrees” of the town’s long term plan for the area. The town in 2012 worked with Porter County Government to extend sanitary sewer and water utilities past the Toll Road on Ind. 49, Trout said for the purpose of creating jobs, not for building more homes and apartment complexes.

“The market in Chesterton has turned around since 2008,” said Trout.

Stone said he sees the plan’s feasibility is “definitely related to the gun range” and said that Fifth Third “has some convincing to do” if they want to move forward.

Planner Emerson DeLaney said he would like for an updated concept plan to address traffic control on Ind. 49.

Impact fee approved

In other business, the Commission held public hearings for two ordinances -- one to amend the number of days and copies required for a petitioner to submit engineering concept plans and the other to reduce the town’s park impact fee.

Neither ordinance saw any comments from the floor.

According to the changes in the subdivision control ordinance, five copies of drawings and data are to be submitted by the petitioner, which would need to be filed 20 days prior to a preliminary review or public hearing, instead of the current 17 days. Copies will be made for department heads to review first and any revisions shall be made 10 days prior to the meeting of the plan commission.

The Commission also voted unanimously to recommend the Town Council establish a new park impact fee imposing a fee of $889 for builders on each new residential dwelling unit, a 24 percent reduction from the current fee of $1,171.

The impact fees will be used to help cover costs of anticipated deficiencies in Parks and Recreation facilities.

Prior to the vote, DeLaney asked attorney Julie Paulson to clarify language regarding the appeal process that says “the town shall not deny the issuance of a building permit on the basis that the impact fee has not been paid.”

Paulson said the appeal process language is required by law to be in the ordinance.

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell said that appeals on impact fees are very rare and usually the developer pays the fee once they read the ordinance. If an appeal is denied and the petitioner has not paid the fee, the town can issue a stop work order on the development, he said.



Posted 3/20/2015




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