Chesterton Tribune

Plan to reopen Splash Down Dunes pulled from Porter BZA agenda

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Plans to re-open shuttered Splash Down Dunes water park at Waverly Road and U.S. 20 were to be presented to Porter zoning officials Wednesday, but the petition was pulled late Monday morning.

That still leaves two BZA preliminary hearings and a public hearing on the agenda.

Gary Brinton, who’s involved with water parks in Utah, had asked to come before the Board of Zoning Appeals during its 6:30 p.m. meeting to determine what’s needed to operate Splash Down Dunes, subject of a foreclosure sale in 2010.

“He just walked into our lives a week ago,” said Porter director of engineering and development Matt Keiser.

Formerly the Enchanted Forest amusement park under different ownership decades ago, Splash Down Dunes closed in 2009 after 16 seasons 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.

Brinton is negotiating with Pearson to purchase and operate the water park, said Keiser, but apparently Brinton couldn’t reach an agreement fast enough to make Wednesday’s meeting.

Because Splash Down Dunes has sat idle and the underlying ownership’s changed, town staff believes a use variance is required to re-open it.

Keiser said the property was zoned as a Business-3 planned unit development in 1993/94 but no one, including the town, can produce a copy of the PUD documents detailing how the property could be used. For that reason it has been recommended Brinton apply for a use variance.

His application did not make the 10-day filing deadline for Wednesday’s BZA, said Keiser, but it was listed as a preliminary hearing for discussion only with no official action anticipated to occur.

Brinton’s concern was that he might lose the busy summer water-park season if the zoning application takes the typical two months or more to be decided; he could pay for a special BZA meeting to expedite review of his project if he wishes to proceed.

Porter has begun the necessary steps to amend its comprehensive plan consistent with the town’s proposed Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project; the Gateway calls for construction of an indoor/outdoor water park east of Indiana 49 near the Porter County tourism visitor center north of Oak Hill Road.

Keiser was asked if an operating Splash Down Dunes would conflict with the Gateway goals. “That’s a good question,” he replied, adding that Brinton has been advised Splash Down Dunes is identified as a Gateway community infill redevelopment area.

The Gateway subarea plan lists a potential family entertainment venue or business park for the 20-acre Splash Down Dunes site.

In 2007 Childress, a former Porter Town Council member, proposed an indoor water park for 14 acres he owned on the west side of Waverly Road across from Splash Down Dunes. After pressure from neighbors and questions from town officials, the land was platted for townhomes instead.

That property is listed as potential residential development in the Gateway plan.

Also on the BZA’s agenda Wednesday are two preliminary hearings: an application for variance by Vic and Mary Sue Smith, 2920 Market St., to build an attached garage; also, an application for variance by Gus Sitaras, 3022 Wabash St., to add a second-story addition.

The BZA’s public hearing is for J&L Bell Ltd. LLC seeking to have gravel parking in lieu of cement or asphalt on the parking areas for a new warehouse at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 15th Street south of the Conrail railroad.

The Porter Plan Commission has two petitions, both preliminary hearings, on the agenda for its meeting at 7:30 p.m. or at the conclusion of the BZA, whichever is later. B&R Development seeks an extension of the June, 2009 primary plat for 54-lot Phase 1 in 190-home The Trails of Porter subdivision on 68 acres known as the Iron Triangle east of Mineral Springs Road.

The second application is for subdivision approval for Vic Smith for the 2910 Market St. property that’s the subject of the BZA petition.

If preliminary hearings are in order, future public hearings will be set.



Posted 5/17/2011