Chesterton Tribune

Liberty landowners speak out against another Chesterton annexation south of the Toll Road

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Attorney Cliff Fleming, representing the owners of 85 acres in Liberty Township south of the Indiana Toll Road, says that he has no idea how that property will be developed if annexed by the Town of Chesterton.

The property owners’ neighbors, however, most of them farmers, oppose the annexation no matter how the land might be used, and in a public hearing before the Town Council on Monday they made their feelings abundantly clear.

Perhaps too clear for President Jim Ton, R-1st, who wielded his gavel frequently and loudly and on several occasions exchanged sharp words with remonstrators.

The council took no action on the annexation petition on Monday—under state law it may not until 14 days after the public hearing—but a vote is expected at its next meeting, Oct. 27.

The parcels in question:

•Slightly more than four acres, located east of Ind. 49, west of North Calumet Ave., and contiguous with the 75 acres annexed last year for development by I-80 LLC, owned by Richard and Nancy Baulos.

•Slightly more than four acres, located west of Ind. 49, south of C.R. 950N, and contiguous with the Toll Road, owned by Irvin and Dorothy Pope.

•And around 77 acres, located immediately west of the Popes’ parcel, owned by the Irvin Pope and Dorothy Pope Irrevocable Trust.

A fiscal plan prepared by the petitioners at their own expense—but not yet adopted by the council—projects no need to expand existing police and fire service, “minimal” road maintenance costs, the addition of no new park land or facilities, and no strain on governmental administrative services as a result of annexation.

If annexed, Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann said, the property would receive an interim zone of R-1 but would ultimately be developed as a planned unit development. The developer, he added, would be responsible for the expense of installing infrastructure, would be required to pay a recreational impact fee, and would also be required to make a donation to the town for the acquisition of equipment.

Finally, Lukmann said, “no promises of any kind” have been made to the owners of the property with respect to the use of the land.

The Public Hearing

One person spoke in favor of the proposed annexation: Paul Tharp, who said that, if the property remains in unincorporated Liberty Township, it will eventually be developed under the purview of Porter County. “If we don’t annex it, its development will be up to the county. And I like local control.”

Ten persons spoke in opposition and voiced a variety of arguments, one of them staked to the traditional agricultural use of the land in question.

Alan Hewitt, whose farm borders the Pope acreage, noted that he grows wheat and raises pigs, and that his operation—“with its dust, noise, smells, and occasional gun shots”—would not be “compatible with any kind of urban use.” Hewitt also expressed the concern that this annexation could “set me up for a hostile annexation down the road.” He concluded with a warning to the council: “I will continue to farm this property.”

Two remonstrators, Don Tracy and J.F. Schrader, suggested that the land at issue may have been contaminated by the application of municipal sewage sludge used for fertilizer.

Jeff McCraw, on the other hand, made something along the lines of a “Don’t Tread on Me” point. “We’re only trying to protect the area we live in,” he said. “We don’t want Chesterton there. We don’t want to live in Chesterton. Never will.”

Tim Cole, George Manning, Mary Seguin, and John Riddle all argued that the council and the town should focus on the redevelopment of its Downtown “Why consider annexation in a rural area,” Cole asked. “You need to think about your Downtown first.”

Manning—who owns property in the Downtown—made much the same point. “You can see the way the Downtown is failing,” he said. “We’re interested in seeing more support for the Downtown.”

For her part Seguin urged the council to keep the Downtown business district “centralized” and to “disallow sprawl.”

“Don’t annex what your people right now can’t afford,” Riddle advised. “This is something we shouldn’t bite off right now.”

Gerald Hebert simply concurred with his fellow remonstrators.

At this point, Ton took the opportunity to say that some of the remonstrators made untrue statements.

Pat Seguin, from the floor, asked Ton to elaborate.

“I’m not going to respond to that,” Ton replied.

Then, a few minutes later, Ton repeated his contention. “I just resent some of the misstatements that have been made but I’m not going to address them.”

From the floor: “That sounds kind of cowardly.”

Ton accordingly made three counter-arguments: that the wastewater treatment plant has sufficient capacity to treat any development of the 85 acres and that combined sewer overflows are not the result of inadequate capacity but of infiltration into the system; that the council has been very supportive of the Downtown; and that, as he put it, “things have grown” on the land applied with municipal sewer sludge.

Last Thoughts

At the end of the meeting Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, observed that the remonstrators are “standing up for what they feel is right” but that “in this process you’re not going to please everybody. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it is.”

In addition, DeLaney reminded the remonstrators that the proposed annexation is a “friendly” one. “This is not a land grab,” he said. “They came to us.” And DeLaney urged the remonstrators to ask themselves this question: “What has the county done for you?”

Member Dave Cincoski, R-3rd, reiterated one of DeLaney’s points, noting that the Town of Chesterton does not have a history of hostile annexation and that he personally would not support one.

 

 

 

Posted 10/14/2008