The developers of a
proposed senior assisted living center at Coffee Creek Center have gotten
their hearts’ desire simply by agreeing to do what the Chesterton Town Code
requires them to do anyway.
At a special
meeting Thursday night, the Advisory Plan Commission voted 4-2 to endorse a
planned unit development ordinance which provides, among other things, for
two variances from code believed by the developers to be absolutely vital to
the project’s success: taller than permitted monument signs.
Those were the
variances the developers got. The one they didn’t get would have absolved
them of the responsibility to install some 660 feet of public sidewalk.
$20-million Residences at Coffee Creek--under development by Westshore
Senior Housing Consultants LLC--would be located immediately south of
Sidewalk Road, west of Kelle Drive, north of Village Point, and east of Ind.
49. Some 250 temporary construction jobs would be created by the project and
100 permanent jobs, the developers have said.
But Town Code
presented Westshore with two evidently extraordinary hurdles. Hurdle No. 1:
the monument signs permitted by code would be insufficiently tall to be seen
clearly and recognizably from Ind. 49 and Village Point. Hurdle No. 2: the
660 feet of sidewalk which Westshore would have to install on the north edge
of the site--along Sidewalk Road from Kelle Drive west--would only lead
strollers, dangerously, in the direction of Ind. 49.
split-voted 3-2 at their meeting in July to endorse the PUD, with George
Stone, Jeff Trout, and Bob Poparad voting for it, and Tom Kopko and Fred
Owens voting against it. Three members of a seven-member body don’t comprise
a majority, though--absent from that meeting were planners Jim Kowalski and
Jeff Ton--and in their haste to break ground this fall the developers paid
for a special meeting, ahead of the commission’s regular Aug. 18 meeting, in
an effort to enlist a fourth vote.
fourth vote was in attendance on Thursday: Kowalski. And once again the
developers made their arguments for big signs and against a sidewalk.
Of the two monument
signs at issue, the larger and more important would be the one sited along
Ind. 49. But a sign conforming to Town Code and no higher than 6.5 feet
would be partially blocked by the white paddock fence in the field along the
east side of Ind. 49, project architect Tom Panzica said. For that reason
the developers want a 12-foot sign, for a variance of 5.5 feet.
that motorists traveling at a 50-mph clip would only have five seconds to
view the sign, which if obstructed by the paddock fence would be virtually
unreadable. And it’s critical that motorists recognize the development for
what it is--a multi-story licensed healthcare facility--and not a hotel or
Sort of a funny
story. Turns out that Westshore’s sister development in Schererville used to
get confused all the time for a hotel by motorists on U.S. Highway 30, who
would disturb staff and residents at all hours looking for a room for the
night. Westshore solved that problem during Phase II by erecting a 28-foot
sign, Panzica said.
“It is not a
capricious request,” Panzica added. “It was well thought out and necessary
to the success of a $20-million investment.”
On the subject of
the sidewalk to nowhere, Panzica insisted that it would put both the old and
the young in peril, by creating “an attractive nuisance drawing children or
seniors toward the dangers of a busy highway.”
It would also add
some 2,280 square feet of impervious concrete to the project area, Panzica
added, with an uncalculated but not negligible impact on stormwater runoff.
hopeful of moving things along, suggested that Westshore ditch the whole
notion of monument signs and instead place a sign on the building’s facade.
The developers were having none of that, however. A facade sign would
present structural issues like snow drift on the roof and maintenance issues
like light-bulb replacement. “We think it’s more pastoral to leave it out by
the highway,” Panzica said.
In the end Kowalski
joined Trout, Stone, and Poparad in viewing the requested variance as rather
a quibble against the magnitude of the project. “It looks like we’re holding
up a $20-million investment that will create hundreds of jobs for a
five-foot variance. Sounds pretty petty to me,” Trout said.
Then Westshore, for
its part, caved on the sidewalk. “The sign is more important than the
sidewalk,” said Westshore principal Lori McLaughlin. “We can live with the
Stone, and Poparad accordingly voted to endorse the PUD. Kopko and Owens
once again voted against endorsement.
The PUD will now go
the Town Council for final action.