The Porter Redevelopment Commission established a baseline Monday of what it
wants to see built on the 31 acres it bought for $350,000 just west of
That way, said commission members, if a development partner comes knocking
theyíll be in a better position to negotiate to the townís advantage.
Voting unanimously, the commission adopted as its concept plan the Oct. 26,
2009 proposal laid out by consultant SEH Inc. for whatís designated as The
Brickyard: potentially 194 residential units, neighborhood commercial, open
space, a fire station and future municipal uses.
Townhomes, row houses, single-family homes and senior-housing units could be
built that would mirror Porterís downtown in size and scale, according to
SEH, and extend Lincoln, Franklin and Rankin streets west through the site
at the southwest corner of Beam Street and Sexton Avenue.
Town attorney Patrick Lyp and town director of engineering Matt Keiser were
authorized to prepare a planned unit development application seeking Porter
Plan Commission approval for The Brickyard, which currently is zoned PUD but
a blank slate with no specifics.
The Town Council would have final authority over the PUD and a public
hearing would be conducted and public comment taken prior to a decision,
stressed Redevelopment Commission president Bruce Snyder.
In addition, SEH was asked Monday to prepare a town capitalization study
contemplating some degree of Redevelopment Commission support for upgrading
the townís antiquated sanitary sewer system. Currently $4.1 million in
projects over the next three years has been recommended by a Sewer Rate
Study Committee but not funded.
Snyder noted the commission has financed wholly or in part sewer projects in
the past including the current upgrade of the Oak Hill Road line.
He also said the commission needs to determine the best places to spend its
money to get the biggest bang for the town. Keiser said the current downtown
sewer lines could take The Brickyard flow if groundwater infiltration is
removed from the system.
Matt Reardon of SEH said if The Brickyard is fully developed, an estimated
$300,000 in annual tax revenue could be realized. Member Micheal Genger said
when the commission spends seed money to get The Brickyard going, the
revenue it generates will benefit the entire town, not just The Brickyard
Lyp said itís not unusual for Redevelopment Commissions to partner
financially on projects and that Porter is in the enviable position of
owning the property, which he added was appraised locally by Professional
Appraisal Services, LLC for $1,050,000 and bought from a Lake County trust
according to the law with no stealth purchase involved.
Keiser said environmental consultant Weaver Boos has completed soil borings,
but additional preliminary engineering will be involved in the preparation
of the PUD, which could be amended by the town or a developer at a later
Snyder said the PUD needs to be firm enough to convey the commissionís
desire, yet have enough wiggle room to remain flexible and not turn off
Commission member Al Raffin said he has no problem heading in a changeable
direction, and he volunteered to represent the commission on a new group
formed March 9 by the Town Council to review sanitary-sewer funding options.
From the audience, council president Michele Bollinger said, ďItís not a
Town watchdog Jennifer Klug earlier told the press she was advised by a
representative of the Indiana Public Access Counselorís Office that the
joint groupís meetings should be public; Bolinger has indicated they will
not be. The meetings of the recent Sewer Rate Study Committee were public.
Lyp said The Brickyard is so attractive because itís the largest undeveloped
tract near Porterís downtown, and a Redevelopment Commissionís purpose is to
take blighted or under-utilized areas and parlay its money for the benefit
of the community.
Redevelopment Commissions are financed with a portion of levied property
taxes designated as tax-increment financing or TIF funds. In Chesterton, the
commission there is using TIF money to revitalize the South Calumet District
by widening existing roads and building new ones, and it has pledged up to
$200,000 to pave downtown Chesterton streets.
Genger said both the Northwest Indiana region and Porter County have taken
notice of Porter. ďThey see us doing something and weíve opened their eyes.
Itís time to take these projects and bring them home.Ē
Among Porterís irons in the fire are two bike trails and a Gateway to the
Dunes revamp of the U.S. 20/Indiana 49 corridors, the latter funded with an
initial $1.8 million grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development
Authority. Porter had sought $19 million of the $30 million project.