Chesterton Tribune

Porter Beach variances Bell warehouse highlight Porter BZA and Plan Commission meetings

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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 variances.

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 exterior stairwell.

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,” agreed Bell.

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.

Bell parking approved

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.

Lorain 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.

Iron Triangle homes extended

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 right-of-way.

Commission member Michele Bollinger said the town has obtained a grant to develop a downtown master plan and the railroad improvements will be factored in.

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.

Posted 5/19/2011




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