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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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