The Porter Town
Council last night unanimously approved a planned unit development (PUD) for
a proposed apartment complex at the site of the old Splash Down Dunes
waterpark at the northeast corner of Waverly Road and U.S. 20.
opposition from an impassioned group of residents, many of whom have
followed the proposal from the beginning, the Town Council members each said
they thought the proposed development will turn out to be a boon for the
There was standing
room only at the Porter Town Hall for the meeting. The crowd erupted in
frustrated murmurs and even shouting following the vote. Many in the
audience sighed and scoffed, and some repeatedly yelled phrases such as “You
don’t represent us” or “Shame on you.”
Entities, the developer who built Lakes of Valparaiso, has proposed an
apartment complex it says will feature approximately 318 high-end dwellings
in six buildings and amenities to include a dog run, clubhouse, and pool.
Weiss plans to build the development in two phases and has made plans to
address the long-standing stormwater issues on the site, according to their
The proposal has
garnered criticism from residents who say an influx of renters would put an
undue strain on municipal services, increase crime, and negatively change
the character of the Town. Residents have also complained that the proposed
development is too dense, will worsen existing stormwater and traffic
problems in the area, and won’t live up to the promises of high quality.
Council member Erik
Wagner made the motion to approve the PUD ordinance. He said he’s acting in
the best interest of the Town he loves. “I’ve lived in this town for my
entire life. I ran for office because I love this town so much. I would
never vote in a way that I thought would hurt the people,” Wagner said.
David Phillips, who lives close to the proposed development, said he
appreciated the public input on the project, though he said it’s also easier
to participate when things are contentious. “I think this could be a very
good thing for us, and I live on Waverly. If anyone’s going to be affected
by this, I will be too, and I know the issues out there,” Phillips said.
Member Brian Finley
said tax revenue from the development could help the Town fund fixes for
infrastructure issues that contribute to the traffic and drainage problems
residents have brought up: “Infrastructure needs money.”
Vice-president Bill Lopez, who seconded Wagner’s motion, said the Council
members have all put a lot of time and thought into their stances on the
Greg Stinson began by addressing rumors that have spread, not without the
help of a flyer that was put in Porter residents’ mailboxes, that says
“Preserve Our Quality of Life” at the top and makes about a dozen nonfactual
or misleading claims about the project. Stinson spent significant time
refuting the claims, highlighting the fact that if the new apartments hit
full occupancy, the influx of residents would increase the Town population
by only 12 percent, and residents’ taxes will not increase because of
the new apartment dwellers.
issue was with the flyer’s statement that Porter elected officials have
“routinely dismissed the concerns of Porter citizens,” despite the fact that
the Town Council has accepted hours of public comment on the development
beyond the one public hearing required by State law.
Stinson said the
Council and Town employees have done their due diligence on the project and
listened to resident concerns, which have all been addressed by the Weiss.
“Clearly I understand you’re not happy with me, but I’m not dismissing you.
I just happen to disagree. I’ve taken your concerns. I’ve studied them and
analyzed them. Disagreeing is not dismissing,” he said.
10 people spoke
against the proposal, two of whom got up to speak twice. One person asked
questions about the clean-up that is underway on the site, which is being
done by the current owner, White Stallion, LLC, in anticipation of sale.
Larry Starett asked
how many residents each Council member has spoken to in their respective
districts about the development; none were able to approximate a number. “It
sounds to me like you’re not representing the people in your wards, you are
representing yourselves, and frankly, it’s why we don’t believe a lot of the
stuff that comes out of this Board,” Starett said.
“I think one of the
biggest things everyone has a problem with is apartments usually bring crime
and property values go down,” Kyle Wimmer said. Stinson replied that context
and environment matter in studies about crime in high-density housing (one
of which was referenced on the flyer) and had said earlier in the meeting
that he conducted such studies as a research fellow at University of
Chicago. Wimmer responded, “You can make your fake studies look the way you
Rob Pieters said
Porter should seek more businesses, per language in its own Master Plan.
“Our town plan says we are under-retailed in this Town. We don’t even have
anywhere to buy socks in this Town without driving to Michigan City or
Valparaiso,” Pieters said. “We don’t even have a grocery store. We go to
saying the parcel could become more marketable and suitable for retail
following the new National Park designation at the Dunes and the future
South Shore Line double-tracking project. “I think it would be shortsighted
to rezone the one large remaining marketable piece of B-3 [general business
zoning type] land in this town.”
Stinson, for his
part, said the there’s been little business interest in the parcel and
businesses follow populations that can sustain them. “This will be
attractive residential. It will hopefully create an anchor so the rest of
that corridor will be more attractive in the long run,” he said.
Earlier, one of the
first people to speak was Plan Commission President Jim Eriksson, who looked
around the packed room and said that in his 20 years of serving the Porter
Plan Commission, he’d never seen “99 percent of these people before” at
understand what this Board has to do. Now I’m not sticking up for the Board,
I’m just telling the facts,” Eriksson said. “I had a sick wife for 12 years,
I run a business, but we can’t find anybody for boards because they don’t
have time. So if you really care about this Town, get involved.”
As it happens,
Stinson said there would be an opportunity for interested residents get
involved, as the Town is forming a three-person economic development
commission that will hold public meetings and research and make
recommendations about whether future developments in Town should receive tax
abatements. The three people will all be citizens--they cannot be elected
officials or Town employees, per State law. The only requirements to apply
are that applicants are residents of Porter over 18. One member of the
commission will be appointed by Stinson, one by the Council as a while, and
one by the County Council. Those interested are asked to submit a letter of
interest to Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy no later than end of business
Tuesday, Feb. 4. Letters can be emailed to email@example.com or
mailed/hand-delivered to the Town Hall, 303 Franklin Street, Porter.
Stinson had earlier
mentioned that he would be announcing an opportunity to be part of the
economic development commission, but by the time he gave the details on how
to apply, the majority of people had left the building.