Chesterton Tribune

Planners favor rezoning ambulance garage

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Said Chesterton Town Council member Jim Ton last month, “People in Morgan Park will be watching what happens on that corner.”

Apparently, they were watching something else Thursday night when the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission conducted a public hearing on a rezoning of the Porter hospital ambulance station property on the edge of Morgan Park.

No one commented either for or against the Porter County Commissioners’ petition to rezone the 2.4-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Porter Avenue and Indiana 49 from Residential-2 to Business-2. Only a few people attended the meeting.

On a 4-1 vote with Tom Kopko and Fred Owens absent, the commission recommended to the Town Council that it finalize the rezoning. The matter will be on the council’s June 13 agenda.

Although the county is the underlying property owner, attorney Greg Babcock said the Duneland Chamber of Commerce needs the appropriate business zoning to obtain financing for its planned $170,000 Chesterton welcome sign and LED message board recently approved for the south end of the parcel.

The Plan Commission’s recommendation carries commitments from the commissioners to exclude certain possible future uses including nursing home, retirement village, greenhouse, all auto-service uses, retail food sales/fast-food restaurants, and recreational uses. Added last night were fireworks, alcohol sales and convenience stores.

Commission member Jeff Ton voted no on the petition. During the meeting he asked what uses still would be allowed on the property, which abuts the undeveloped eastern edge of Chesterton Cemetery south of Porter Avenue.

Babcock said allowable uses are a bank, business offices, child care, medical/veterinary clinic, tanning salon, funeral home, church, antique shop, florist and office supply among others. He noted Horizon Bank is in Morgan Park across the street from the ambulance station as are a Wendy’s business office and the Duneland YMCA, all on Roosevelt Street.

After the meeting Jeff Ton said, “I was shocked that there weren’t really more people (at the public hearing).”

He lives on Roosevelt, said it’s a main entrance to the historic subdivision, and if the ambulance station becomes a business, “That’s something I’d look out my window and see. I don’t feel Morgan Park needs to have any more businesses. I envision a park there.”

Commission member George Stone said there’s added protection for residents because some of the uses still allowed on the commissioners’ land wouldn’t be able to be built because the parcel is irregularly shaped and it likely would be difficult to meet parking and other requirements.

Babcock said he also lives in Morgan Park and with the 1977 opening of the Indiana 49 bypass, things changed with approximately 30,000 vehicles now traveling the divided highway daily.

Porter Avenue is described in Chesterton’s comprehensive plan as a collector street so traffic will happen, he added. The commissioners’ property has one road cut onto Porter. Babcock also noted the comprehensive plan, updated in 2010, anticipates the ambulance station one day will be business/medical offices and encourages rezoning for that use.

In addition to the Chamber’s planned sign, which will replace an old wooden one that blew down in December, a Vietnam Veterans memorial is located south of the ambulance station on the same parcel.

Commission and council member Emerson DeLaney said if the county property changes hands, he’d hate to see the veterans’ memorial harmed in any way. When the rezoning petition is presented to the Town Council June 13, Babcock was asked to confirm the continued existence of the memorial is provided for by the commissioners.

DeLaney and commission member Jeff Trout, who also sits on the Town Council, both said it’s good that future uses on the commissioners’ site will be restricted. Added Trout, “With the commitments, we’ve done a pretty good job protecting the (Morgan Park) neighbors so anything that would go in there is complementary.”

In other business, the commission forwarded a unanimous recommendation to the Town Council that it rezone from Business-3 to Residential-1 two parcels at 190 E. Mekeland Lane owned by Lewis and Lisa Graff. The property is north of U.S. 20 and west of Veden Road. The couple want to build a home.

Lewis Graff said no businesses are left in the area and owners of two others parcels near him expressed an interest in seeking residential rezoning as well. No one commented during a public hearing on the petition.


Posted 5/20/2011