There was standing
room only at the Porter Plan Commission’s meeting Wednesday night for a
public hearing on a rezoning request that would allow a developer to build
apartments on the site of the old waterpark at the northeast corner of U.S.
20 and Waverly Road.
three-and-a-half hour meeting, 22 members of the public spoke in a public
hearing that lasted approximately one hour and 35 minutes. Only one person
was in favor of the proposed apartment complex. Three said they were on the
fence, but said nothing positive about the proposal.
After closing the
public hearing, the Planners took turns reading into the record 10 letters,
the authors of which all oppose the suggested development. One letter was
sent by the Summer Tree homeowner’s association, which said it represents
the interests of 88 Porter residents who live across Waverly Road,
immediately east of the old waterpark.
Members of the
audience applauded after each person who spoke in opposition stepped down.
The meeting was raucous at times, with audience members interrupting the
petitioner and the Board throughout.
Anderson requested the property be rezoned from B-3 general business, to
R-4, multi-family residential, on behalf of petitioner Indiana Land Trust.
Weiss Entities, the same developer who designed and built Lakes of
Valparaiso, is proposing an apartment complex with upscale features and
amenities for the site.
The property is
currently still owned by the company that operated the waterpark, White
Stallion, LLC. White Stallion is in the process of tearing down the existing
buildings and water slides as part of a sale agreement, according to Porter
Building Commissioner and Director of Development Michael Barry.
Anderson said the
$35 million development will have 318 high-end apartments built in two
phases, with amenities including a clubhouse, an on-site dog run, a pool,
and 249 covered parking spaces made possible by the first floor of the
largest building serving as a garage.
The first phase
would consist of a large L-shaped building with the Clubhouse and attached
apartments, three smaller apartment buildings, a sports court and dog run,
parking, and three detention areas--one dry bed and two ponds. Phase two
would add two more buildings with parking and a dry bed detention area.
If the rezone goes
through, Weiss will be asking for three variances--two related to rear
setback, one to slightly reduce the parking ratio, and one to allow the
tallest building to be 56 feet when Town Code stipulates a maximum height of
President of Weiss
Entities Don Weiss said the apartments will be “first class in every
manner,” and the Town of Porter would be proud to have such a development.
“This follows the success of Lakes of Valparaiso. Everyone in Valpo has
acknowledged it’s been one of the most important additions to the city in a
long, long time,” Weiss said. “And we think this is a step beyond Lakes of
One resident said
he was in favor of the rezone and the development because it would be good
for the Town, similar to a development on U.S. 20 in Buns Harbor. He said
they don’t have major traffic issues there.
Three residents who
said they were on the fence urged the Planners to carefully consider
drainage, traffic, and how the new development would affect neighboring
properties. The properties to the north have long been victim to drainage
problems and flooding, Waverly Road may not be able to handle the influx of
people, and the roadcut onto U.S. 20 would be “planned disaster,” according
to those three residents.
The 18 residents
who spoke against the rezone had a host of common concerns, including: the
proposed development is too dense and too big, making it out of character
for Porter’s small town feel; the influx of people would be too much for
local services and infrastructure to handle; traffic would be negatively
impacted, especially during peak tourism season; and neighbors will be
negatively impacted by noise, lack of privacy, drainage problems, and
There were also
concerns that what the developer calls “luxury” could be section 8 down the
road; the apartments could be turned into Airbnb rentals; phase two of the
project might never be built; a complex like this encourages “transients”
who aren’t invested in the area to flock to Porter; and maybe the whole
thing is already a done deal because of money.
President Jim Eriksson later responded to the latter: “I resent this talk of
this being a done deal. Everybody on this board lives in this Town, and we
give our time,” he said. “We’re gonna look out for the best interest of this
A handful residents
made positive comments about the proposed development, but said it just
isn’t right for Porter. The residents suggested a myriad of other uses for
the decrepit waterpark, including making it a County- or Town-owned park,
putting in single-family homes, putting in Townhomes or duplexes, making it
a new waterpark, or trying to attract businesses to it.
Jennifer Klug was
one who said she’d rather see a business take root there. Klug noted that
Towns tend to profit more from businesses than residential developments.
“Businesses are the life blood of a community, and they bring in a lot of
the tax money,” Klug said. “We have limited area for the Town to grow, and I
wish we wouldn’t take prime real estate for homes.” At least two other
residents made a point to say they’d prefer a business at the site.
summed up his complaint with the development: “This is like dropping
something from outer space into our community.” Setlik and his wife Sandy
Setlik said the new development is too big and would overwhelm public
services and worsen already dangerous traffic on Waverly Road. “That area
would work very nicely for single-family homes, townhouses, appropriate
businesses, but nothing on this scale,” Robert Setlik said.
echoed Setlik’s and many others’ statements. She said the proposed apartment
complex is beautiful, but it’s too much. Chemma asked, “I’m sure the design
is gorgeous, and it would probably bring a lot of good people into our
community, but at what cost to the people that are here?”
Weiss Vice-president of Design and Development Bob Billick, and Abonmarche
Consulting Civil Engineer Randy Peterson said on rebuttal that the residents
have legitimate concerns, but all the bases are covered.
INDOT has been
informed of the planned development and says planned improvements to the
intersection of U.S. 20 and Waverly will support the influx of traffic. As
it stands, traffic studies indicate the amount of trips generated by the
complex wouldn’t overwhelm the area, Peterson said. Peterson also noted the
detention basins planned should greatly improve the drainage problems
property owners to the north have had historically.
Weiss, for his
part, noted that businesses come where populations support them, and the
proposed complex will bring those people who will eat and shop in Porter and
Duneland. Weiss also said growth in NWI has stagnated while Chicago suburbs
expand: “Too many people are leaving NWI including your kids.”
“If you don’t build
this housing, those people will go elsewhere. I don’t think 20 years form
now that you’ll think it was a good decision, that everybody went
elsewhere,” he added.
Porter Fire Chief
Jay Craig, who’s also a Planner, said he’s concerned that every apartment
building won’t have an elevator, which can delay emergency responses. He
also said the Porter Fire Department doesn’t have a truck that can fight a
fire in a building 56 feet tall, though other nearby departments do.
Weiss said the
buildings will be sprinklered, but Craig said he still takes pause for the
fact that the Town would eventually incur equipment costs to best protect
Planner and Town
Council member-elect David Phillips was concerned about drainage and asked
Weiss how the development would benefit Porter. Weiss said the development
would increase property values and the tenants will invest in the community.
Town Planner Jim
Mandon said the parcel is too small for single-family development, and if it
were parceled out into smaller lots for businesses, traffic would likely be
a bigger concern because there could be more than one roadcut onto U.S. 20.
Mandon also said space is money for businesses, and a commercial development
likely wouldn’t leave as much greenspace as Weiss has proposed.
Mandon noted that
calculations related to stormwater runoff, sewer capacity, and traffic
patterns are done by engineers. “Those aren’t guesses.” The rezone makes
sense, according to Mandon.
that despite appearances, what’s done on the west side of Waverly Road
doesn’t add to the drainage patterns on the east side of Waverly. The water
stays on whatever side of the road it originates from.
The Town Council
has the final say on rezoning requests. The Planners voted 5-2 to favorably
recommend that the Town Council approve the rezone. Phillips and Spanier
cast the no votes.