Chesterton Tribune

Liberty Township residents blast proposed annexation south of Toll Road at 49

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Liberty Township residents have stolen a march on a developer who is petitioning the Chesterton Town Council to annex some 45 acres of property located immediately south of the Indiana Toll Road and immediately east of Ind. 49.

At the council’s meeting on Monday night, five current or former Liberty Township residents voiced their opposition to—or at least their concern over—the proposed annexation, months in advance of any public hearing, should it ever come to that.

Earlier in the evening members had voted 3-0 to approve the execution of a pre-annexation agreement with the developer, Robert Rossman. Under the terms of that agreement, Rossman will pay the expense of a fiscal plan and annexation study, to be prepared by H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, the town’s contracted financial consultant; will pay all of the town’s legal fees in accordance with Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann’s prevailing hourly rates; and will pay any time spent on the matter by Town Engineer Mark O’Dell at a rate of $55 per hour. The agreement does not obligate the council actually to annex the property.

Member Dave Cincoski, R-3rd, was not in attendance. Member Mike Bannon, R-5th, was late to the meeting and missed the vote.

According to attorney Cliff Fleming, representing Rossman, the development would be of the mixed-use variety, with around 32 acres adjacent to Ind. 49 devoted to commercial/retail of an unknown type and nearly 12 acres further to the east devoted to residential, also of an unknown type. As part of the development, the current intersection of Ind. 49 and North Calumet Ave.—Old 49—would be relocated to the north, in a reconfiguration which would alter its existing alignment with C.R. 950N on the west side of Ind. 49 and require motorists who wish to cross Ind. 49 to make a dog-leg.

Fleming previously approached the Utility Service Board in April to request on Rossman’s behalf a sanitary sewer connection, with the understanding that if such a connection is feasible—it would have to run beneath the Indiana Toll Road—and if the property in question is in fact annexable, Rossman would be amenable to annexation.

The Liberty Township residents, on the other hand, were somewhat less amenable. Tim Cole—while noting that he has nothing inherently against development, however nice it would be to keep the land in question agricultural or open—did raise the issue of the property’s current zone under the Porter County Zoning Ordinance: Agricultural and Rural Residential. For one thing, he said, “people living there now” are likely to be uncomfortable with the new use.

For another, Cole observed, Porter County—with a recently enacted ordinance requiring developers to preserve at least 10 percent of the acreage as open space—is more exacting than the Town of Chesterton when it comes to the design of subdivisions. Has Chesterton ever even worked with the county on matters of zoning? Cole asked of no one in particular, receiving no answer.

Cole also suggested that the council consider the proximity to the property in question of the North Porter County Conservation Club and stated his opinion that a dog-leg across Ind. 49 would never be approved by the county.

Paul Tharp, a former Liberty Township resident, said that crossing Ind. 49, from North Calumet Ave. to C.R. 950N, is already a hazard for farmers with their slow-moving machinery and that dog-legging the crossing would only “compound the hazard.”

Dale Wingate, who said that his property borders the acreage in question, suggested that the only reason Rossman is requesting the annexation is because the Town of Chesterton is “less strict” than Porter County is in the matter of zoning.

Katherin Hale wanted to know exactly what a pre-annexation agreement means. Lukmann said in reply that it obligates Rossman to pay the cost of the annexation process while in no way obligating the council to pursue the annexation if members believe it not to be in the town’s best interest. Lukmann added that the annexation process is a long one, that it could take months, and that in any case no annexation can take place until after a public hearing on the matter.

For his part J.F. Schrader joked that, instead of abolishing township governments—as has been discussed by the General Assembly—perhaps municipal governments should be abolished instead, what with the high cost of the services which they provide. “You do not need that annexation,” he told the council. “You do not need city government. . . . If you annex into Liberty Township, are you going to bring your problems into Liberty Township?”

Fleming, himself a Chesterton property owner, said in response to Schrader that he is “quite happy and content with the services provided” by the town and that those services make Chesterton “a wonderful place to live.”

Rossman’s annexation petition is the fifth to come before the council this year. Currently pending are three other annexation petitions: those of Larry and Christine Wright, who have requested the annexation of 39 acres in the area of C.R. 1050N and Ind. 149; of Suman and Abhisek Das, who have requested the annexation of 60 acres on the south side of C.R. 1100N west of Victory Park and directly across the street from Dogwood Park; and of Vladimir Gastevich Jr., who with his brother has requested the annexation of 132 acres in the area of East Porter Ave. and C.R. 250E.

In June the council formally approved the annexation of 12 acres owned by the Duneland Community Church of the Nazarene and located on the south side of C.R. 1100N in the area of C.R. 50W.


Posted 7/11/2006