Chesterton Tribune

Stealth buy of brickyard acres prompts questions in Porter

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Why didnít the Porter Redevelopment Commission publicly discuss buying 31 acres in the heart of town for $350,000 before it approved the purchase Oct. 24?

Thatís what three residents asked commission members Tuesday.

ďI donít recall any discussion about this before that,Ē said Bill Cantrell. ďA lot of people donít understand that transaction.Ē He said people question how a search for land for a new fire station expanded into the purchase of 31 acres.

Oct. 24 a town consultant told commission members the site can be redeveloped into apartments, townhomes, condos, senior living units and commercial uses; the commission agreed to solicit requests for proposals seeking development partners.

The wooded parcel is a former brickyard at the southwest corner of Beam Street and Sexton Avenue. The fire station would be at the northwest corner of the parcel.

Jennifer Klug asked the commission since this is a public project with public funds, shouldnít there have been more public discussion?

A closed commission executive session was held earlier this year to discuss purchase or lease of real property.

Commission president Micheal Genger said town attorney Patrick Lyp, who was absent Tuesday, was part of the process all along, a proposal from the seller was brought to the commission and it was accepted publicly. Genger said closing on the deal already has taken place.

Klug asked who would pay to make the site buildable, the town or a developer? ďIíve got a bunch of questions and Iím sure a lot of people do, too.Ē

Bill Suarez asked if the town had an appraisal demonstrating the $350,000 price was justified. Commission member Bruce Snyder said he didnít know if the appraisal is public record but no decisions were made in executive session.

Suarez also asked if documents supporting the land transaction are part of the commission minutes. Snyder said the town clerk-treasurer maintains public records.

Waverly flood-fix eyed

Cantrell addressed the commission as president of the Porter Stormwater Management Board regarding periodic flooding on the west side of Waverly Road just south of the Amtrak rail line. He said since the Stormwater Board has limited funds, could the commission use its dedicated property-tax funds to correct the problem?

Porter director of engineering and development Matt Keiser said some drainage upgrades are planned to coincide with upcoming construction of the Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail along Waverly, but a more comprehensive stormwater project could be designed to include additional areas.

The cost could be substantial to bore under the railroad and direct water by gravity feed north to the Little Calumet River, advised Keiser, yet pipe should be sized for future expansion of the system when the Orchard Pedway actually is built.

Keiser said heíll develop cost estimates and options to relieve the flooding problems. He suggested the Stormwater Board could pay for engineering for the project if another board pays for construction.

Regarding a recent drainage project at the intersection of Waverly and Oak Hill Road, Keiser said installation is complete and the system appears to be working.

Trails in final plan stage

Keiser reported both the Orchard Pedway and the Brickyard hike/bike trail on the west side of town still are scheduled for construction next year.

He said he is reviewing engineering estimates before asking the commission to decide whether to end the Orchard Pedway at the Orchard Apartments north of Interstate 94 or to extend the trail a short distance to the north; the trail begins at League Lane and Woodlawn and winds through Hawthorne Park.

Originally the pedway was to stop north of U.S. 20 on Waverly but right-of-way problems and remonstrances prompted the change. Regional and state agencies need to sign off on the amended design plan before it can be let for bid.

Responding to a question from resident John Butz, Keiser said consulting engineers currently are revising Brickyard trail plans to build bridges over both U.S. 20 near Howe Road and over U.S. 12 rather than using more-expensive tunnels.

 

 

 

 

Posted 11/19/2009