It was clear at
Wednesday’s Porter County Plan Commission that Tanner Trace residents are
passionate about keeping their neighborhood a peaceful place.
What wasn’t clear
is what plans petitioner Tooraj Torabi has for the property if the County
were to grant his request to rezone the property at 53 and 57 East U.S. 6 in
Liberty Twp. from Single-family Residential to a Moderate Commercial
The planners voted
9-0 to recommend the County Commissioners deny the request. The
Commissioners, who have the final say on rezonings, will hear the request at
their August 5 meeting, said Plan Commission Executive Director Bob
attorney William Ferngren said the rezoning to commercial would fit in with
new development triggered by the construction of Porter Regional Hospital,
as well as the neighboring St. Andrews medical campus development which was
previously rezoned to Moderate Commercial on its southernmost 15 acres by
parcels total about 10.5 acres. “At this time,” Ferngren said, “no specific
use” has been decided for the property.
with representatives of St. Andrews, Ferngren said the petitioner would
agree to the same restrictions placed on that commercial rezoning, such as
no tattoo parlors, automobile repair stations, parts suppliers, or gas
During the public
hearing portion, St. Andrews’ attorney Todd Leeth also made four other
suggestions that the plan commission consider to help preserve the character
of the neighborhood -- landscaping provisions with an enhanced buffer on the
west side of Torabi’s property, cooperation with the property owners
association, no light pollution, and no additional egress or ingress on U.S.
Neighbors urge to
A dozen or so
neighbors also spoke, none were in favor of the request.
“I believe it
should be dumped because we don’t know what (Torabi) wants,” said Tanner
Trace resident Don Trowbridge, who also said traffic on U.S. 6 has been
“terrible” and would be exacerbated by new development.
He and neighbor
Kathy McEwen questioned what would be left of the buffer zone on the east of
the subdivision to shield the light from the roadway and the hospital.
are going to have lights in their backyards, in their living rooms, in their
bedrooms,” McEwen said.
McEwen also feared
that if the property were to be rezoned, it could never revert back to
residential. “What controls do we have? (Tanner Trace) is a wonderful place
to live and its changing rapidly,” she said.
resident Edwin Gutt said he and others worked on a steering committee for
the U.S. 6 overlay plan that gave guidelines for housing and development
they wanted to see for the area based on input from the public. The plan has
never reached the Commissioners for implementation.
president of the Woodville Foundation which looks to preserve the rural
character of the townships of Liberty and Jackson, said he doesn’t want U.S.
6 looking like “another Merrillville” with uncontrolled growth and said he
prefers development comparable to the Aberdeen, a planned unit development
south of Valparaiso.
Torabi has the
right to try to develop his property as he sees fit, Seykowski said, but
should consider the concerns of his neighbors. If Torabi’s property were
rezoned, it could be sold to a “stair-step” of owners with different
motives, Seykowski said.
Before the meeting,
The Woodville Foundation sent letters to the Plan Commission urging it to
activate the U.S. 6 overlay plan and the Liberty Township TIF plan, which
was shelved by the County’s Redevelopment Commission, and asking that
Torabi’s request be tabled.
A little piece of
The planners heard
more remonstrations from Tanner Trace residents speaking of their dread of
what will happen with traffic, property values, drainage and the detention
pond that sits on Torabi’s property.
Mary Collins said
when she bought her home nearly 40 years ago, she “got a little piece of
heaven” surrounded by wildlife which is now being threatened with “too much
construction.” She and neighbor Gerald Hebert said they have seen more
litter come into their yards.
“We want to be left
alone; happy, safe and secure,” said Collins.
complained of hearing nothing about plans for a buffer zone and added that
the trees providing a buffer now are dying.
resident and former county planner Herb Read said the Plan Commission had
previously decided to reduce buffer zones with the hospital and the St.
Andrews development. “Cutting the buffer zone in half is not an
enhancement,” he said.
Read encouraged the
planners not to act on the request until “an honest-to-God real life owner
comes up with a real design.”
Planners Vote No
pointed out they didn’t have any traffic study in front of them or how the
property would be accessed.
“I think additional
plans need to be made. A full buffer should be established and I still have
questions about the pond,” said planner Luther Williams.
Planners Rick Burns
and Lyndsay Ploehn said they considered Torabi’s property to be the buffer
needed between Tanner Trace and the office and commercial areas of St.
Andrews. Removing that buffer “is going to change the character of the
property,” said Burns.
Planner Dick Maxey
said he would be more comfortable if the part of the property abutting
Tanner Trace would remain residential and there was a plan to control
traffic. Extra planning is needed, he said.
outpouring of traffic concerns, planner and County Council member Robert
Poparad, D-at large, said that given U.S. 6 is a federal highway, it should
be realized that it is out of the county’s reach to control traffic and
increases in volume will happen.
“We can’t sit and
beat ourselves up because of traffic on the highway. That’s all I’m going to
say. It is what it is,” he said.
Under the motion
made by planner Mitch Peters, the Commission voted unanimously to deny the