Chesterton Tribune

Utah developer seeks to reopen Splash Down Dunes in Porter

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Paperwork has been filed with the Town of Porter seeking zoning approval to re-open shuttered Splash Down Dunes, perhaps even this year.

Seven Peaks Waterpark Porter LC, a new corporation formed for the venture, is seeking a use variance to operate a water park/amusement center at the northeast corner of U.S. 20 and Waverly Road.

A principal in Seven Peaks is Gary Brinton of Utah, who’s been involved with water parks and other development there.

After 16 years of operation, Splash Down Dunes has sat idle since 2009 following a host of problems over Health Department and town building-code violations, disputes with neighbors and infighting between former owner Paul Childress and investor Fred Pearson.

Real estate attorney Elka Nelson said Brinton is under contract with Pearson, now the park’s sole owner, and Pearson submittted a letter to the town authorizing Seven Peaks as part of its due diligence for the sale to file for the needed variance.

Nelson is also a Porter Town Council member. Because her firm handled the sale and she is the principal broker on the deal, she said she will recuse herself on any zoning matters related to the water park.

Research for the sale led to the discovery of zoning-map irregularities for Splash Down Dunes and potentially other commercial properties in that area.

The Town Council will address the matter tonight. According to president Greg Stinson, “These parcels were zoned (planned unit development) when everything was done a number of years ago. However, the paperwork was never filed with the county. As a result, the filing time requirement elapsed and the current map needs to be updated.”

That effort will begin with the Porter Plan Commission and include a required public hearing.

Exactly one year ago Brinton expressed an interest in acquiring Splash Down Dunes. Nelson said she believes he was discouraged from proceeding at that time because as part of the Porter Gateway redevelopment project, an indoor/outdoor water park is proposed near the Porter County Visitor Center on Indiana 49.

In 2007 Childress said he wanted to build an indoor water park on 14 acres he owned on the west side of Waverly Road behind the Splash Down Dunes parking lot; after pressure from neighbors and questions from town officials, the land was platted for townhomes instead.

A decade ago published news accounts reported on financial dealings involving Brinton in Utah. Nelson said she is satisfied that the venture planned for Porter “will absolutely be a good project for the town.”

 

Posted 5/10/2012