Chesterton Tribune

Porter BZA wants clarification on proposed water park hours

Back to Front Page






Two renovated apartments on Franklin Street and a lesser setback for a planned Wagner Hills home were approved, but the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals had unexpected questions Wednesday about proposed hours of operation for the new Seven Peaks Porter waterpark.

Seven Peaks local attorney Greg Babcock told the BZA that Seven Peaks, a Utah-based company, has closed on the 32-acre property and is the owner of the former Splash Down Dunes waterpark at U.S. 20 and Waverly Road.

Following a special June 6 BZA public hearing on zoning variances needed for the acquisition, Seven Peaks principal Gary Brinton said he planned to make $1.5 to $2 million in upgrades at the waterpark prior to its 2013 reopening.

The BZA’s Seven Peaks approvals were granted June 6. A required findings of fact supporting the BZA’s decision was adopted June 20 and a review of the waterpark’s proposed written commitments were considered last night.

BZA members voiced concern about the hours of operation Brinton proposed last month: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. but for special events or private parties the extended hours could be 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Town planner Jim Mandon said he wasn’t suggesting that the town regulate the hours tightly, but the late hours could be a problem, especially if accompanied by music.

Babcock said he will contact his client for clarification.

BZA member Lorain Bell was skeptical about Brinton’s June 6 statement that Seven Peaks Porter won’t be open on Sundays. Because the waterpark season is only 105 days long, “I think they could change their mind.”

Babcock said that’s how Seven Peaks operates its other waterparks in Utah. “Maybe the reason they chose that is a different cultural aspect, a church issue different than you’d have here.”

Many businesses in Utah are closed on Sunday in respect for the Mormon faith.

BZA attorney Laura Frost said the prior findings would need to be amended to ban Sunday operations, and that the BZA wants to make sure extended operating hours are reserved for special events only. Babcock said he will prepare a revised copy of the commitments; once approved and signed, they will be filed with the Porter County Recorder.

Franklin apartments coming

Tom Tarpley and John Ayala secured 5-0 approval to renovate the ground floor of a former commercial building at 200 Franklin St. into two apartments, and to permit four on-site parking spaces behind the building instead of the required eight.

Eight spaces are needed because the upstairs of the building already has two apartments. The men indicated, and Porter department heads concurred, that there is enough room on the west side of adjacent Pleasant Street to park four vehicles.

Tarpley said if the downstairs, a former meat market, is occupied by renters, that space will be heated to prevent structural damage and he wouldn’t have to worry about vandalism.

During a public hearing, downtown resident Jennifer Klug said the building is of historic significance and should be preserved, especially since the old Porter town hall was razed and a new one built. A fully renovated 200 Franklin St. will increase property values and a residential use will create less traffic than commercial, she stated.

Klug also said she plans to live in one of the Franklin apartments.

Franklin Street resident Sherrill Newman said Tarpley/Ayala have done a good job improving the building already and should get their variances. “That building was going down before they took it over.”

Tarpley later said the building is thought to have been built in 1900. BZA member Bill Sexton said their proposal is a good way to preserve historic buildings.

One letter of remonstrance was read by board president John Kremke. Neighbor April Pitts said the area already is too crowded and “adding a large apartment into the equation would not benefit the Town of Porter.”

W. Hills house advances

James and Heidi Gilliam unanimously were granted a variance to locate their proposed new home on Lot 14 in Wagner Hills subdivision closer to a property line than allowed by town code.

Mandon said because it is a corner lot, setbacks limiting the area for construction leave not much left for building the home. James Gilliam said its size would exceed 2,600 square feet. Mandon said the town wants subdivision homes of comparable size, not one noticeably smaller.

Linda Emanuelson, who lives north of the Gilliam lot, did not remonstrate during a public hearing but expressed concern that drainage swales would be impaired during construction; she said they have no drainage problems now and want to keep it that way. She was told drainage would be addressed during the building permit process.



Posted 7/19/2012