The agendas of the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals and Plan Commission
meetings crossed over Wednesday.
Vic Smith was at the BZA to have a preliminary hearing on his petition to
build a 25-foot by 30-foot garage at 2920 Market St. Two setback variances
would be required.
Smith said the footprint of his existing Porter Beach house won’t change but
he’s also seeking a building permit to enclose a deck and patio. On a 4-0
vote with Henry Huyser absent a public hearing was set for June 15 on the
At the Plan Commission, Smith was listed as a preliminary hearing but had
been told to give notice for a public hearing to combine his three Porter
Beach lots into one lot of record as required. No one commented and his
replat was approved 7-0.
Gus Sitaras also started at the BZA, presenting his request to add an
approximately 33 foot-tall, second-story addition at 3022 Wabash St. as an
observation room to view Lake Michigan above the building in front of his
Porter Beach home. A BZA variance is required.
Member Ken Timm asked if Sitaras has neighbors behind him; Sitaras said yes
but their home is up on a cliff. Bell observed that Sitaras appears to be
adding more square footage to the existing home’s footprint because of an
Elka Nelson of the BZA asked for confirmation of the grade being used to
determine the actual height and building levels of the proposed addition,
and that town officials review whether additional variances should be added
to the petition. “We need some homework done before the public hearing,”
Town planner Jim Mandon said Sitaras would need to merge his lots into one
lot of record as Smith was doing and the BZA sent Sitaras to the Plan
Commission, meeting next, where under audience participation he asked for a
public hearing June 17.
As a minor-subdivision replat the preliminary hearing can be waived, said
commission member Greg Stinson, and it was.
Following a hearing last night where no public commented, the BZA voted 3-0
approving a request from J&L Bell Ltd. LLC to allow the use of gravel
parking instead of a cement or asphalt surface around a new 36,000
square-foot warehouse the company plans to build at the northeast corner of
Woodlawn Avenue and 15th Street.
Bell is a principal in the company and recused himself from hearing the
petition. Attorney Terry Hiestand represented the Bells saying warehouse
construction will mean a significant addition to Porter’s tax base.
John Bell said the limestone will be graded regularly like at other J&L
warehouses along Woodlawn, and the gravel promotes better drainage.
Not discussed Wednesday was Gary Brinton’s application for a use variance to
operate shuttered Splash Down Dunes water park for the same purpose. Brinton,
who is involved with water parks in Utah, pulled the request Monday after he
was unable to reach agreement with the park’s present owner.
The Plan Commission unanimously extended for one year to June 17, 2012 the
deadline for B&R Development to start building Phase 1 of the 190-home The
Trails of Porter subdivision approved in June, 2009 for 68 acres known as
the Iron Triangle north of Wood Street and east of Mineral Springs Road.
Attorney Greg Babcock, speaking for developers Bob Gorgei and Rich Brennan,
said the pace of new homebuilding is dismal in the area, the appraised value
of property has dropped, banks won’t loan and there’s a number of surplus
lots already in Porter County.
Babcock did say B&R has purchased 5 acres north of the CSX railroad for a
planned Trails park; the Porter Park Department hasn’t decided whether it
will take over the site.
During public comment last night resident Jennifer Klug asked if commission
members were aware of federal railroad plans to improve Porter Junction
where several tracks converge immediately south of Lincoln Street in
Porter’s downtown. New sidings will be added to facilitate the movement of
Amtrak and freight trains that use the gateway.
Klug’s concern was that Porter consultants have displayed tentative plans to
add a bike trail down the south side of Lincoln adjacent to the railroad
Commission member Michele Bollinger said the town has obtained a grant to
develop a downtown master plan and the railroad improvements will be
Member Art Elwood, also town building commissioner, said it could be years
before the railroads get their act together and start construction.
Furthermore, “It’s the federal government. They won’t ask you or the town.
They’ll say this is what we’re going to do and adjust.”
Nevertheless, commission member and town director of development Matt Keiser
said it might help if Porter has a downtown master plan to negotiate with.
Welcomed to the BZA was new member Ken Timm, a Republican, and Democrat
John Kremke to the Plan Commission. Their appointments were swapped after it was
learned the commission had too many Republican members; state law requires
the composition to be more balanced.