Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton planners hear opposition to LEL farming plan

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Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission member Emerson DeLaney may have struck a compromise when it comes to Lake Erie Landís request to allow farming on about 175 acres in Coffee Creek Center.

Faced with three remonstrators at a Thursday public hearing --- and sharp words from one commission member --- in addition to concerns about the nearby Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve, DeLaney suggested eliminating farming altogether on Lot 16 in Coffee Creek Centerís third addition, an estimated loss of less than 30 tillable acres.

Additionally, a 75-foot perimeter buffer around any farmed area was agreed to by LEL and Robert Rhoda, who would lease and farm the land. Despite the proposed restrictions, Rhoda said he probably still would be interested.

A decision on the petition was continued until July 19, in part at member Fred Owensí suggestion that a United States Geological Survey map of the area showing topography be submitted. He also wanted to see an amended copy of the required ordinance incorporating the points discussed last night.

The land, proposed for farming corn, soybeans, wheat or hay but no animal operations, lies on both sides of County Road 200E, on its west side located south of Morganís Corner subdivision in Coffee Creek Centerís second addition.

Subdivision residents Marlene Raich and Olympia Jones were opposed to the LEL petition. Raich said if she wanted to live next to a farm, she would have done it, and she bought her lot paying for its views. Jones, also speaking for her husband Marc, said when they bought their lot they were given assurances nothing would be built behind it. Both also expressed a concern about flooding.

From the floor, Bill Carlton said those notified about the petition never were provided with a map. One was shown to the trio and explained. Four people attended the meeting; no one spoke in favor of the petition.

LEL project manager Keith Sharpe said there is a wetland behind the womenís homes and a tree line will protect their view, but at some point the land beyond is intended for development. Attorney Greg Babcock, representing Rhoda and LEL, said mixed business/residential uses are allowed under Coffee Creek Centerís planned unit development for the third addition.

Once the Plan Commission votes on the LEL petition, it advances to the Town Council for final action to amend that PUD ordinance.

Kopko raps LEL request

It wasnít just remonstrators voicing opposition last night.

Commission member Thomas Kopko, president of the townís Stormwater Management Board, said PUD ordinances should benefit the Town of Chesterton. LEL and Rhoda will make money while Chesterton loses prairie, he added. ďI donít see where it gives Chesterton anything but dust, pesticides and dirty water.Ē

Sharpe said the Watershed Preserve board of directors does not oppose the LEL petition and supports a 75-foot buffer.

ďIím not comfortable with this at all,Ē Kopko said of the petition.

During his presentation, Rhoda described how he farms several tracts in the Duneland area, would minimize erosion on the LEL land, employ no-till methods when possible to keep down dust, prefers to contract with a licensed commercial applicator for herbicides, and finds little need for pesticides when using todayís modern seed.

Sharpe said the Watershed Preserve itself uses herbicides to control non-native species.

Commission member Sig Niepokoj said Chesterton is recognized under the Tree City USA program, and he asked about Rhodaís intent to clear some trees. Sharp said the land hasnít been farmed for 15 years and there arenít a lot of good trees out there but what ones there are will be saved.

Farming wonít block sale

Babcock and Sharpe were clear that even if the land is being farmed by Rhoda, LEL still will be marketing it for sale.

If itís sold, Sharpe said, the new buyer may not want to develop it right away and would allow Rhoda to continue farming. One of several commitments the petitioners propose is allowing Rhoda to farm through 2022 if he so chooses.

Commission member Jeff Trout said language should be added to the PUD ordinance requiring that if the farmed property is purchased and subdivided, the 75-foot perimeter buffer will need to be adjusted accordingly.

DeLaney said the northwest corner of Lot 16 in the third addition is an important area because of long-term plans for a Dickinson Road extension to the south and Voyage Boulevard to the east. There is also a natural drainage flow to wetlands.

He noted the neighbors present and the Watershed were brought into the Chesterton community, but it canít be ignored that the land Rhoda eyes was farmed at one time.

ďIím just looking for a happy medium for everybody.Ē


Posted 6/22/2012