Is John Nekus
proposing to build, on the 11.28 acres located behind the Chesterton Post
Office, a proper “retirement village” as defined by the Zoning Ordinance?
Or is he simply
calling the project a retirement village in order to build multiple paired
patio homes in a B-3 zone?
That’s the question
on which Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson and his colleagues at
Harris Welsh & Lukmann will deliver an opinion, in the next week or so, to
the Advisory Plan Commission.
At the Plan
Commission’s meeting Thursday night, Nekus and his attorney, Greg Babcock,
introduced Nekus’ concept for the “Duneland Prairie Retirement Village.”
Nekus has filed no formal petition at this point, and likely will not do so
until planners have received guidance from Harris Welsh & Lukmann. Instead,
he and Babcock were simply interested in receiving feedback from planners.
Babcock opened his
comments by saying that the retirement village concept represents a
“substantial change” from the planned unit development ordinance which
planners voted 5-2 earlier this year to forward to the Town Council with an
unfavorable recommendation (the Town Council then voted unanimously to
reject the PUD ordinance).
include the following:
provides for the construction of 42 residential units, in 21 paired patio
homes, compared to the 62 units which Nekus was seeking to build in the
--All roadways and
sidewalks would be built to Town Standards and, dedicated to the town, would
be public, not private, as the original PUD called for.
village would be developed according to the requirements of the B-3 zone and
there would be no need for “relief,” that is, for variances of any kind.
center” would be built for residents of the retirement village.
Babcock then read
the Zoning Ordinance’s definition of “retirement village,” a permitted use
in a B-3 zone: “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 dining area.”
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 at least 55 years of age.”
In a separate memo
to Parkinson, received May 16, Nekus noted the following:
community would be ‘maintenance-free’ living targeting active and healthy
individuals 55 years of age or older where a homeowners associations (HOA)
will be responsible for lawn care and the clearing of snow and ice from
driveways and sidewalks.”
staffer would be on site 40 hours per week. The Zoning Ordinance, Nekus
stated in the memo, does not require a staffer to be “present at all times,”
building would feature a barber/beauty shop, a gift/convenience/coffee shop,
the property management office, and a centralized kitchen and dining area.
Nekus contends in his memo that the Zoning Ordinance’s definition of
retirement village does not actually require the kitchen to provide “regular
Babcock himself at
Thursday’s meeting bluntly stated that department heads have already
expressed “concerns about how we’re defining retirement village,” and
planner George Stone appeared to have his own concerns as well, suggesting
that Nekus is “trying to fit this into the B-3 zone” so as to avoid the PUD
permitting process in which his original project foundered. “Inevitably,”
Stone said, Nekus’s definition of a retirement village is a “nicety that
will pass over the heads” of the Westchester South and Richter Street
residents who remonstrated against the original PUD. “The subtlety of the
zoning category is going to be the issue.”
replied that his new concept adequately addressed the major objections
voiced by the remonstrators earlier this year, by reducing the density by
approximately a third, by building roadways to Town Standards, and by
avoiding the need for variances.
density, aren’t you pricing yourself out of your market,” Stone asked.
Nekus said that he
isn’t. The price range will remain in the $250,000 to $325,000 range. “The
fact that I lost a third of the units, guess what, my problem.”
But with fewer
residents, won’t the HOA fee paid by each be significantly higher? Stone
“I don’t see it
that way,” Nekus said. “Landscaping will be in a way where it will be
natural and won’t require so much mowing. The (HOA) fee will be in line with
competition. It will have to be.”
Planner Nate Cobbs,
for his part, observed that there was one very significant objection which
remonstrators made not addressed by Nekus’ concept: traffic in and
out of the retirement village, which like the original PUD provides for a
main entrance off South Calumet Road and a secondary one off Richter Street.
Trout--one of the two on the commission who voted earlier this year to
endorse the PUD--was blunt in his support of the retirement village concept
as well. “Density seemed to be the biggest hang-up” the first time around,
he said. “For some reason the factual information that there are several
other successful developments in town of equal or greater density didn’t
make any difference” to the remonstrators. But the retirement village, Trout
observed would be one-third the density of the PUD.
intends to build the retirement village’s roadways to Town Standards, “so
that issue goes away.”
seems to have made a very good-faith effort to reduce density, get rid of
variances, and build to Town Standards,” Trout concluded.
But is Nekus
proposing to develop an actual retirement village, and not just a
residential subdivision in a B-3 zone?
“There has been
discussion in our office of how does this fit the definition (of retirement
village) or how doesn’t it fit,” Parkinson told planners. “This is the
question: does a B-3 zone allow for retirement village units to be
separately sold? When you start to separately plat and sell lots, how can
you maintain that as a comprehensive use?”
“I can tell you
that we’re discussing this internally,” Parkinson said. “We have to generate
an opinion. Because frankly this is outside the model, where you have
individual lots sold. We need to come up with some kind of legal opinion in
our office, so you know whether this is not within that definition. If it
is, then all you have to do is the platting. If it does not, then there are
planners that a legal opinion would be rendered in the next week or 10 days,
in plenty of time for their next meeting, Aug. 15. That opinion, in other
words, will be in place at such time--whenever that might be--as Nekus
formally files a petition and seeks a preliminary hearing on the retirement
village. A public hearing would be scheduled after any preliminary hearing