Advisory Plan Commission split-voted at its meeting Thursday night to
continue--for the third consecutive time--its public hearing on John Nekus’
proposed planned unit development, Duneland Prairie, on 11.28 acres located
behind the Chesterton Post Office.
different residents who would be affected by the PUD took issue with planner
Jeff Trout’s role in the proceedings.
continuance, requested by Nekus and his attorney, Greg Babcock, who notified
the Plan Commission last week that they require more time to complete an
amended design of the development. Nekus was in attendance at Thursday’s
meeting but didn’t speak. Babcock--his flight home from Mexico delayed--was
Planners Tom Kopko,
Fred Owens, Sharon Darnell, Nate Cobbs, and George Stone all voted to grant
the continuance. Planner Jim Kowalski--who quite clearly told Nekus and
Babcock at the commission’s January meeting to be prepared for the February
meeting--voted against the motion. Planner Jeff Trout was not in attendance.
After the meeting
Kowalski told the Chesterton Tribune that, although Nekus and Babcock
have said that they’ve been in communication with Westchester South
residents about the proposed PUD, they apparently haven’t reached out to
other neighbors whom the development would likely impact: those who live on
Richter Street, Creita Street, South Second Street, and Washington Ave.
“What about the people on Richter?” he said. “What are they, chopped liver?”
Now in the matter
of Jeff Trout, who at the January meeting read excerpts of a letter
forwarded to the commission by Jim Jeselnick, who at the December meeting
vociferously opposed the proposed PUD but later changed his mind after
meeting “privately” with Nekus. In that letter Jeselnick stated that his
previous concerns--about density, drainage, and the number of
variances--were without merit.
Westchester South resident Tom Byrnes wanted to know why--with the public
comment portion of the public hearing formally closed at the December
meeting--Trout was able to read that letter into the record at the January
“I understand your
concern,” Darnell said.
“I think that’s
something to consider,” Kowalski concurred.
Attorney Chuck Parkinson’s legal opinion: essentially, no harm, no foul.
That’s because planners made no final decision on the PUD at the January
meeting. Had they made such a decision, however, it would have been
inappropriate for them to have based it in any way on Trout’s reading of
Jeselnick’s letter inasmuch as it was not, and could not have been, part of
the official record of the proceedings.
“That letter should
not be part of the record of the public hearing, because the public comment
portion of the hearing was not re-opened for it to be read,” Parkinson said.
“That letter was not a proper part of the public comment portion of the
public hearing. But it’s a moot point because the developer is changing the
plan and the public comment portion will be re-opened.”
with Parkinson that--assuming Nekus and Babcock do in fact submit a revised
plan of development in time for the March meeting--the public comment
portion of the hearing will be re-opened at that time and that
residents will have the opportunity to speak again on the matter.
Byrnes was followed
on the floor by Linda Vogt, a resident of Richter Street. Vogt’s concern:
that Trout’s prior business relationship with Nekus should disqualify him
from voting on the PUD and that he should recuse himself.
The nature of that
relationship: Trout and Jeselnick originally owned the property which Nekus
is proposing to develop. That acreage was part of Trout and Jeselnick’s
Venturi project but they opted not to develop the acreage and instead--in
1998--sold it to Nekus.
“I can’t imagine
(Trout’s) making an unbiased decision,” Vogt said.
Planners did not
respond to Vogt’s comment.
In other business,
planners split-voted 5-1 to approve an amended primary plat for the
Springdale PUD, located south of 1050N and immediately west of the
Abercrombie Woods subdivision.
The primary plat
for Springdale--a mixed use residential and commercial project--was
originally approved in 2008 but the developer never sought secondary plat
approval. Eleven years later, the time frame for construction under the
original PUD has closed and Olthof Homes LLC was required to seek primary
plat approval all over again.
But, as Town
Engineer Mark O’Dell told the Tribune, there are in any case
multiple, if minor, amendments in the original primary plat, concerning for
example lot sizes and setbacks.
approval was Kopko, who said after the meeting that he has always opposed
the specific location of Springdale’s detention pond: on the acreage set
aside for commercial. That location significantly reduces the amount of
property available for commercial development in the PUD.
“The town doesn’t
have enough commercial property as it is,” Kopko said.
voted unanimously to continue to their March meeting consideration of
secondary plat for the double hotel project at Coffee Creek Center, located
immediately north of the Culver’s restaurant.
At issue, O’Dell
told the commission: the developers, two different entities of the
Amerilodge Group; the hotel companies themselves, Fairfield Inn & Suites and
Holiday Inn Express; and the property owner, Lake Erie Land Company, are
still working on a landscaping plan for the project.
planners that if a landscaping plan isn’t submitted in time for the March
meeting, they can take the matter off the agenda.
No one representing
Amerilodge was in attendance on Thursday.