Chesterton Tribune



Planners favor South Calumet rezoning to residential in narrow vote

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The Chesterton Plan Commission voted in a split decision to favorably recommend rezoning three commercial parcels facing South Calumet Road at its recent meeting.

The decision was preceded by two meetings worth of discussion in a continued public hearing and a tied vote when planner Jeff Trout was absent in August.

The three parcels--facing South Calumet Road between Westchester and Washington Avenues--are owned by Shinn Building and Developing Corporation and have sat vacant for seven years, per a 2011 agreement the company came to with the Town wherein six lots behind the commercial parcels were developed for single-family residential housing on the condition that the lots fronting South Calumet Road remain zoned for business use and be offered for sale to remain part of the South Calumet Business district.

Attorney Greg Babcock, representing Paul Shinn and Shinn Building and Developing Corporation, first proposed rezoning the parcels at the Plan Commission’s July meeting, following the years of no commercial interest, which sparked a debate about the balance between commercial and residential property in Chesterton and the Town’s comprehensive master plan.

Plan Commission President George Stone noted that the West side of Calumet Road from 1100N to Indian Boundary is zoned commercial and supposed to stay that way per Chesterton’s comprehensive plan that was last updated in late 2010. Shinn first came to the Commission with his request to build houses on all nine of the parcels his company owned shortly after the comprehensive plan was passed. Stone’s position at both the August and September meetings was, “a deal’s a deal.”

Member Jim Kowalski, however, took the position that the Plan Commission needs to bend with the changes in the market that have brought little interest in the property. “The master plan is one thing, but it’s a guideline, it not a rule of law we have to stick by,” Kowalski said. “You can’t ask a man to sit there and leave these lots up for sale just because someone made a deal.” At both meetings, Kowalski said he thought Shinn had done his due diligence by leaving the properties for sale for seven years.

Trout, after reviewing the documents Babcock presented and the minutes of the August meeting, agreed. He said, “Uses have changed. Life goes on along Calumet,” and noted that rezoning doesn’t stop anyone from acquiring the property and securing a use variance to run a business from it later if interests change.

Member Thomas Kopko spent much of both meetings shaking his head. “All we’re doing is taking little bites out of our commercial property each meeting.”

In August, Babcock presented letters of support from two adjacent property owners who would like more residential development on the parcels. Town Council member Emerson Delaney also spoke in support of the move. At that time, both Kowalski and member Nate Cobbs said they’d rather see the parcels become residential than sit empty. Cobbs also suggested the Commission revisit the comprehensive plan.

At the September meeting, the vote was 4-3 in the affirmative to favorably recommend the rezoning of the parcels to the Town Council. Stone, Kopko, and Vice-president Fred Owens dissented, and Cobbs, Kowalski, Trout, and member Sharon Darnell voted yes.

Before the meeting adjourned, Stone asked that the Commission members review their copies of the comprehensive plan and prepare to discuss possible changes at the November meeting.


Posted 10/2/2018







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