The Porter Economic
Development Commission (EDC) held its first meeting last night.
This first meeting
was an organizational meeting, as required by law. The three members elected
Rob Pomeroy as president, Jim Burge as vice-president, and Elka Nelson as
secretary. They then set their next meeting for Monday, April 13 at 6:30
There was no
business, so the Board called for public comment. Robert Setlik spoke up
first. “I would like to question the legitimacy of this three-man board,” he
said. “We were told to volunteer ourselves. Some of us went and signed up
for this Commission and were ignored. We didn’t even get the courtesy of a
Setlik and his wife
Sandra were among a large group of residents who opposed the rezoning of the
old Waterpark property at the northeast corner of U.S. 20 and Waverly Road
where developer Weiss Entities has proposed building an apartment complex.
hours remonstrating against the proposal with varied complaints, one of
which was that the Town Council wasn’t representing the will of the people
when it became apparent the proposal was moving forward. The Town Council
approved a planned unit development (PUD) for the site that rezoned it from
B-3, general business, to R-4, multi-family residential, and granted Weiss
three developmental standards variances in January.
president Greg Stinson announced after the approval that concerned citizens
would have an opportunity to get involved with the new EDC. The Town
subsequently received 10 applications for the three-member board, and
Pomeroy, Nelson, and Burge were appointed.
When asked why he
appointed a former Town Council member, Stinson told the Chesterton
Tribune he wanted people with experience in municipal finance on the
Board and thought it was best if the Board members were neutral about new
developments in Town.
about you people? You’re former town officials appointed by a Town Council
president that was anything but neutral about those proceedings,” Setlik
Sobkowski said the Town followed the law in appointing the board members.
One member was appointed by Stinson, one was nominated and appointed by the
Town Council as a whole, and the third appointed by the Porter County
Council at the Town’s recommendation.
Burge and Nelson
said they sent in letters after hearing about the opening. Pomeroy said he
was approached by Town Council member Brian Finley about applying.
Pomeroy is a former
Porter Town Council member who said he served alongside Nelson and gained
experience working on the Town budget. He is also Clerk-treasurer Carol
Nelson has a
background in real estate law and was formerly on the Town Council. She also
said she’s unfamiliar with the developer and has no interest in the
apartment project. “I applied because I thought I’d be a good watchdog for
our community. I came into this pretty open-minded,” Nelson said. “I’m one
of the least likely citizens to waste taxpayers’ money. I’m very
conservative with that and like to see where it’s going.”
Burge said, as a
former County Council member, he was on the committee entrusted with making
recommendations on investing the proceeds from the sale of Porter Hospital.
He has a background in business and is currently a vice-president of sales
and marketing, a position where he said he’s established a pattern of
fostering collaboration. Burge lost a bid for the fourth ward seat on the
Town Council last year and is now on the Board of Zoning Appeals.
satisfied. “I’m still concerned that you’re all part of a continued inbred
group in Porter and that the rest of us are iced out,” he said.
Jennifer Klug asked
what exactly the EDC does. Sobkowski said the EDC’s primary duties are
promoting and reviewing economic development in Town. It recommends funding
for development, such as bond issues, and it has a role in awarding tax
abatements in the sense that it makes recommendations on whether or not to
designate economic development areas.
Sandra Setlik asked
if the EDC members have an interest in making sure development is
environmentally responsible. Nelson said she thinks about the environment
every day. “If I think anything is adverse, I will probably speak against
that,” she said.
Burge likewise said
he is concerned about the environment, as he learned how important it is to
Porter residents while canvassing for his campaign last year. Burge said he
also knows how important neighborhoods are and how “everyone loves their
little corner of Porter.”
“At the same time,”
Burge said, “we need to keep an open mind about ways we can bring in
development that will help grow our tax base and create jobs.”
The three members
agreed they aim to be a voice for Porter residents, not for themselves.
“Whatever I can do to help the community, that’s why I’m here,” Pomeroy