Chesterton Tribune



Dollar General traffic plan troubles Porter planners

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Town planner Jim Mandon told the Porter Plan Commission that town staff have lots of concerns about the site plan for the proposed Dollar General store at the northeast corner of U.S. 20 and Waverly Road.

Among them are how to move traffic safely at the busy corner, which also serves Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland and is regulated by a delayed-signal traffic light.

Reading from his tablet Wednesday, Mandon highlighted the concerns to commission members and Mark Foster, a project manager with Weaver Boos Consultants representing the retail chain.

Foster said he’s been working with town officials for a month. “I’d certainly have loved to address these concerns before tonight’s meeting.”

Mandon said since Dollar General can’t build until it obtains variances from the town Board of Zoning Appeals, he recommended continuing the site-plan review until Oct. 16.

It was agreed Foster, commission members and the public will have copies of the staff list available to them prior to next month’s meeting.

Dollar General proposed two entrances: one off U.S. 20 and one off Waverly. Foster said he’s received the U.S. 20 road-cut permit from the Indiana Department of Transportation, but Mandon said staff wants that entrance to be right in/right out only and other changes.

Commission member Elka Nelson said with the National Park Service’s desire that U.S. 12 be restricted as a parkway, Porter has to be prepared that more traffic might be redirected onto U.S. 20.

Earlier in the evening the BZA heard Dollar General’s petitions for three variances: to reduce the number of parking spaces from 41 to 39, to exceed the maximum number of signs allowed, and to exceed the total allowable gross surface area of signage.

All were set for public hearing Oct. 16 on 4-0 votes with member Bill Stronks absent.

Foster said because the 2.1-acre parcel has two visible frontages, it needs two 21 foot-tall freestanding pylon signs and two Dollar General signs on the 9,100 square-foot building. That totals 492 square feet of signage when 100 square feet is allowed by the town.

The signs would be illuminated during the store’s 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. operating hours.

Mandon told the BZA that at the following Plan Commission meeting he would present numerous staff concerns about the site plan. Vote to advance the BZA variances to public hearing also allowed Dollar General to amend those petitions as needed no later than Oct. 1.

Foster’s presentation was brief. After the meeting he said Dollar General would like to break ground as soon as possible, and that the area’s population and specific location are a good fit for an American company serving America that brings value and convenience to Porter.

During the Plan Commission meeting, Nelson suggested and members agreed to have zoning attorney Laura Frost research town code and commission rules to see whether they’re in conflict. BZA/Plan rules of procedure seem to indicate department heads will meet as a technical advisory committee or TAC to review pending petitions and issue a report, but Nelson said some requests are so minor they don’t need extensive review.

If TAC does meet, town ordinance requires it to give legal notice and conduct a public meeting, but a department head staff meeting has no such requirement.

However the zoning boards decide to proceed, Nelson said the rules should be clear and consistently applied, and that TAC meetings could be required on a case-by-case basis.

In other BZA business, the board unanimously approved a variance for Al Raffin at 451 Waverly Rd. to allow a fence in his front yard. He explained this summer he replaced a rotting, non-conforming fence with the same size and materials not knowing zoning approval was needed first.

During a public hearing, resident Jennifer Klug stated, “I don’t see why he should be penalized for taking care of his property and replacing what was there.” There were no remonstrators.


Posted 9/19/2013