Chesterton Tribune

Recommendation set for Splash Down Dunes, US 20 rezonings; Porter public hearing June 6

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Porter department heads, meeting as a Technical Advisory Committee or TAC, agreed Thursday what the new zoning classifications should be for parcels in and around the former Splash Down Dunes waterpark.

Now it’s up to the Porter Plan Commission, which will conduct a special public hearing on the rezonings June 6, to adopt, modify or reject TAC’s recommendations and forward its own recommendation to the Town Council for final action.

Town officials are eager to keep the ball rolling so Porter doesn’t lose Seven Peaks Marketing as a purchaser of the long-shuttered Splash Down Dunes site at the northeast corner of Waverly Road and U.S. 20. The Utah company also would buy the waterpark’s nearby parking lot on the west side of Waverly, both parcels comprising a total 32 acres.

New zoning needs to be assigned after it was learned none really exists in some areas there because of a paperwork oversight years ago.

A consensus was reached among TAC members Public Works supervisor Brenda Brueckheimer, police chief James Spanier, director of development/building commissioner Mike Barry and town planner Jim Mandon that the main waterpark should be Business-3 and the parking lot parcel Residential-1.

Those classifications would allow both a waterpark and a parking lot on the respective parcels if each is granted a use variance from the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals. A special BZA meeting to consider both requests also is slated for June 6.

Mandon said the R-1 zone is consistent with the adjacent residential uses on the perimeter of the parking lot.

Both Splash Down Dunes parcels were thought to have been zoned B-3 and R-1 already with one difference: each would have had to be developed as a planned unit development or PUD agreed to by the developer, Plan Commission and Town Council.

Mandon said the new zoning without a PUD restriction still offers the town protections because it will require site plan review that looks at the same issues such as traffic, utilities and drainage.

The current rezoning proposal also will drop the PUD requirement from other B-3 business properties in the Splash Down Dunes area including cell towers, Pinkerton Oil, Westchester Animal Clinic, Hultman Flooring, a vacant lot at the Waverly intersection, a convenience store there on the north side and Pat’s Liquors at the southwest corner of Waverly/U.S. 20.

Likewise, the PUD requirement for a triangular parcel on the north side of U.S. 20 south of the Summertree development also would be dropped and remain R-1.

If the Town Council adopts the TAC recommendation, nothing would change with Summertree --- a multi-family residential/office use --- and Summertree’s Residential-4 PUD zoning will remain intact because that PUD plan was properly approved.

From the audience, Splash Down Dunes neighbor David Haske asked what are the plans for the waterpark.

Mandon said no specific plans yet have been filed because the zoning needs to be cleared up first, but TAC is aware single-family homes border some of the waterpark property.

At a BZA meeting last week, Seven Peaks’ local attorney Greg Babcock said he will lay out plans in more detail June 6 on how the main waterpark site, closed in 2009, will be repaired and upgraded.

Present Thursday, Babcock said he has no issues with the B-3 and R-1 zoning recommendations as long as approved use variances allow the requested activities.

Mandon said the town is trying to provide the narrowest zoning permission to accomodate Splash Down Dunes’ requests, if approved, rather than allowing a broad rezoning.

After the meeting Town Council president Greg Stinson said he’s speaking with the owners of property involved in the proposed rezonings so they understand what’s happening.

Stinson noted Porter doesn’t want to rush into anything because a downtown master plan is being developed, and zoning will have to be assigned for the $30 million Gateway to the Indiana Dunes tourism/economic initiative affecting Indiana 49 and U.S. 20 through town. “If we revisit the whole town map in nine months or a year, we don’t want to do something (now) and regret it.”


Posted 5/25/2012