The second time was
the charm for developer John Nekus.
At its meeting
Thursday night, the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission voted 7-0 to approve
the primary plat for Nekus’ Duneland Prairie retirement village, not quite
one year after planners split-voted to recommend against his proposed
planned unit development on the same 11.28 acres located behind the
Chesterton Post Office and immediately east of the Westchester South
followed a public hearing at which three persons spoke in favor of the
retirement village and seven against it, although for the most part the
seven remonstrators appeared less agitated than those who earlier this year
opposed Nekus’ original PUD.
Greg Babcock, in a thorough and detailed presentation, argued that the
property in question--zoned B-3--“lends itself to the retirement village
concept” and in particular fits the 2002 Zoning Ordinance’s definition of
That definition: “A
business venture for the establishment of a retirement village for senior
citizens that will provide for the privacy of the individual residents in
private dwelling units but also including such basic services as barber
shops, beauty shops, gift shops, pharmacies, and a centralized kitchen and
More: “A retirement
village must also meet all of the following criteria: (1) have a centralized
kitchen and dining area to accommodate all occupants of the facility, (2)
have a full-time staff member on site; (3) comply with all ADA requirements;
(4) have a maximum of two persons per unit; and (5) at least one occupant of
each unit must be 55 years of age.”
Nekus plans to
build 21 separate duplexes--a total of 42 residential units--20 fewer
duplexes than Nekus proposed for the original PUD. Babcock said that the
target demographic is the aging Baby Boomer looking to live an “active life”
and own his or her own home, without the need, however, to mow the lawn or
clear snow, chores which the homeowners association (HOA) will undertake.
specifically to the variety of amenities within easy walking distance of the
site: Tiger Lily, Danny O’s, and the Chesterton Post Office.” He added that
the site is also “somewhat secluded,” which many folks would find appealing.
In newly amended
covenants, moreover, the community building required under the Zoning
Ordinance definition would feature a “commercial grade kitchen” and a dining
room capable of seating 84 people: the total population of the project when
built out. But no actual or regular meal service is envisioned at this time;
residents will be able to avail themselves of the kitchen for their own use
should they desire.
The HOA would also
be the enforcement authority, to ensure that at least one resident of each
unit is 55 or older. Should a resident of that age have a younger partner,
and then that older resident dies, the younger partner would have to sell
the unit and leave the retirement village, Babcock said. The HOA would give
the younger partner a “reasonable” amount of time to sell but nevertheless
he or she would be required to sell.
Babcock did want to
make one thing clear: although the B-3 rear-yard setback is 10 feet, a
20-foot rear-yard utility and drainage easement is required under Town Code.
When coupled with the 25-foot R-2 rear-yard setback in place at Westchester
South, a full 45 feet of separation between the retirement village’s
duplexes and Westchester South’s single-family homes will be effected.
Three people spoke
in favor of the retirement village. Local builder Paul Shinn called “the
option to own homes close to amenities is a great option” and added that
“you can age in place” at Duneland Prairie.
Rob Carstens, a
Porter resident, said that for his part he likes the smaller units as a way
to “simplify” as he ages. “I think it’s a great product.”
Jim Jeselnick, a
Westchester South resident himself, said that Duneland Prairie would
complement nicely the nursing homes recently opened in town. “We don’t need
another assisted living. We don’t need more apartments. We don’t want some
of the businesses that could go in a B-3 zone.”
Seven person spoke
either against the retirement village or expressed concerns.
Of the latter, most
feared the impact the development would have on drainage. Robert Sexton
wanted to know the elevation of the detention pond. “Are there provisions to
keep me from being flooded?” he asked “Let’s do this right with flood
sexton at the St. Patrick Cemetery, worried about the impact of additional
flow from the Pope O’Connor Ditch--which the detention pond will empty
into--on the banks of Coffee Creek.
Tom Byrnes echoed
Sexton. “I’ve never had a problem with water and I want to keep it that
way,” he said.
Linda Vogt, a
resident of Richter Street to the north, repeated her concerns about
drainage expressed earlier this year, namely, that “the water will have
nowhere to go.”
Ruth Morisette, on
the other hand, mourned the clearing of the woods behind her home which
construction would require. “You call it a prairie,” she said. “What? Is
that some kind of joke? Because you’re taking away the prairie. We need to
think about nature.”
Tom Albano spoke of
the coyotes, deer, red foxes, and owls which shelter in those woods. “You
can call it retirement village,” he said. “I call it a duplex village. When
you’re backing up to duplexes, it’s not desirable.”
finally, a resident of South Second Street, expressed concerns about traffic
and the likelihood that the secondary access--off Richter Street,
immediately east of South Second Street--would be the most popular ingress
and egress point. “It’s a quarter mile between Jefferson Ave. and Richter
Street,” he said. “That’s one long strip of traffic and we’ve got lots of
children coming through there.”
The bulk of
Babcock’s rebuttal was devoted to the matter of stormwater drainage. The
property generally drains from north to south and into the Pope O’Connor
Ditch. The detention pond will be built to collect runoff under the
specifications of the Zoning Ordinance--meaning it will be capable of
handling the runoff from a 100-year rain event--and it will be sloped for an
easterly flow, away from Westchester South to the west.
rear-yard stormwater drains will be installed for each duplex and while
there is nothing Duneland Prairie’s stormwater system will be able to do
about the runoff on the north side of Richter Street, it should capture that
on the south side.
As to the clearing
of the woods, Babcock admitted he “didn’t have a good answer for the deer
and foxes.” But, he said, “It is a developable piece of land.”
Stone wanted to know this specifically, directing his query to Associate
Town Attorney Connor Nolan: “Is this project in full compliance with B-3
zoning,” with regard to the kitchen and dining room in the community
“Our opinion is
that the proposal would satisfy the requirements for the B-3 zone for this
particular use,” Nolan said.
Tom Kopko similarly
pressed Nolan, wanting confirmation that the Zoning Ordinance requires Nekus
to build the kitchen and dining area but that they actually “don’t have to
be used.” Nolan did so confirm.
conceded that he’d begun the meeting fully prepared to vote against the
primary plat but was persuaded by Babcock that the project is a good one.
“Right now, with what Mr. Nekus has brought to the board, I have to say that
he has met the criteria.”
Fred Owens, for his
part, observed that B-3 allows for a host of uses which neighbors might find
more objectionable than a retirement village; that a property owner “can
take out trees if he wants”; and that the concept meets the B-3 definition
and moreover that Nekus will need no variance relief to build the duplexes.
“I like the idea of
a retirement village,” Jeff Trout said. “Seniors who want to own their own
homes. There’s a market for that. They want to live here and stay here for
many, many years. I think this is going to meet a niche that just isn’t here
Planners then voted
unanimously to approve the primary plat.