Chesterton Tribune

Porter planners favor Gateway but hesitate on zoning changes

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The Porter Plan Commission gave unanimous approval Wednesday to the concept of the much-touted Gateway development, but it stopped short of taking the next step to consider changes in zoning classifications for parcels within the planning area.

The commission approved a motion recommending the Town Council amend the Porter comprehensive plan to include the Gateway proposal, which eyes about 121 acres in the Indiana 49 and U.S. 20 corridors to provide new opportunities for lodging, recreational and shopping activities for visitors to Porter and the Indiana Dunes.

But with some of that land currently zoned for industrial uses, town director of engineering Matt Keiser told the commission, Porter legally can’t deny such development if it meets town standards and that would be detrimental to the Gateway’s goals.

Advised town planner Jim Mandon, “If we don’t want a warehouse in that location, you certainly want to follow up with zoning changes as fast as you can.”

If the commission really supports the Gateway plan, Mandon added, it makes sense to adopt new zoning so only those uses can happen there.

The commission can initiate zoning changes but a final decision would be up to the Town Council.

Commission president Lorain Bell said he prefers to wait until the Town Council actually puts the Gateway into the comprehensive plan before tackling the zoning issue. No one made a motion to do otherwise.

Of specific concern is the Munson Place light-industrial park at the southeast quadrant of Indiana 49 and U.S. 20. Its only tenant is the Porter County Tourism Visitor Center, but a resort hotel, restaurants, shops and mini-golf course are proposed there.

As the Gateway discussion began, Bell said it would be “short and sweet". He noted the project has been discussed publicly at repeated meetings, and last month the commission conducted a formal public hearing on it.

Member Greg Stinson said as much as he disagrees with certain aspects of the plan, he moved to forward it to the Town Council with a favorable recommendation.

In other business, an intended preliminary hearing on an extension of primary plat for Phase 1 of The Trails of Porter residential subdivision was continued on the advice of the town attorney. Phase 1 involves 54 lots in the 190-lot project approved in 2009 for the northeast corner of Wood Street and Mineral Springs Road south of the CSX railroad in an area known as the Iron Triangle. No construction has begun.

Earlier Wednesday, Bell recused himself as a member of the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals because he is co-owner of a company seeking a BZA variance.

John Bell representing J&L Bell Ltd. LLC said the company wants to build a new warehouse but doesn’t want to pave the parking areas, which would be graveled. “If we were to invest in an asphalt or cement drive, it would just be torn up by trucks because of tight turns on the property.”

Voting 3-0 with Bell recused and John Kremke absent, the BZA set a public hearing on the petition for May 18.

The BZA also adopted on a 4-0 vote findings of fact supporting its March 16 denial of a use variance for Paul and Valerie Piotrowski; they had sought to open a cabinet showroom in the former Waverly Community Center building, which is zoned residential. Several neighbors opposed the request.



Posted 4/21/2011