Chesterton Tribune

Plan ahead for public hearing on GK

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Editorial

If its membersí preliminary questions are satisfied next week, the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission may set the proposed GK Development retail mall for public hearing.

Whenever the public hearing occurs --- January, February or later --- we urge the Plan Commission to consider conducting it at a location more suitable than the Chesterton town hall.

With its maximum 80 -person capacity, the meeting room likely will be too small for the number of people who legitimately have something to say about the proposed 350,000 square-foot shopping center.

Its planned location is at the southeast corner of State Road 49 and County Road 1100N, where a new stop light at Pioneer Trail will be installed at the Illinois developerís expense. The already-congested area has prompted commission members rightly to question the ability of thousands of additional vehicles to stack at and pass through the 49/1100N intersection, especially from the west.

So who might want to attend the GK mall public hearing? Hereís only a partial list:

Certainly South Calumet Road residents and business owners. Road modifications there, on 1100N and on nearby County Road 100E all could be required, perhaps even closing the southern terminus of South Calumet itself at 1100N.

The new mallís south entrances would be off two-lane Rail Road near Kelle Drive. Residents and property owners in that area, especially along Rail Road, likely will have an opinion they want to express.

Some downtown Chesterton merchants who see the shopping center as a threat to their businesses have been organizing and already announced plans to attend the hearing. Also, officials of the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy have been highly critical of GKís plans so far.

Developers are dangling Target and Kohlís department stores as likely mall anchors as well as other unidentified retailers and restaurants. Duneland shoppers, who GK hopes will help fill the mallís approximately 1,400 parking spaces, probably will want to have their say.

Letís not forget Chesterton residents in general. Some welcome the mall, seeing it as a boost for the local economy bringing with it jobs and the possibility of jump-starting compatible development in the area. If the mall is approved, acreage now zoned for industrial use would house coffee shops and clothing stores instead. Is this the direction its residents want the town to take? Town officials need to hear their input.

That town hall is getting pretty crowded, isnít it, and we havenít even counted the merely curious whoíll attend just to see what the big dealís all about.

The last thing we want to see is a restricted number of people allowed in the town hall meeting room with an overflow crowd jamming the small lobby, unable to hear the GK presentation or the publicís comments. Even worse would be for that crowd to spill out the lobby doors into a cold winterís night.

Town staff should investigate the feasibility of having the public hearing at a Duneland School Corp. auditorium or other suitable location where an adequate sound system is in place, sufficient seating is available and there wonít be a freight train roaring by every 30 minutes.

Whether or not the GK mall is approved is one of the most important decisions this town will make; itís far too important to shortchange the varied constituencies who deserve a voice in that outcome.

 

Posted 12/7/2005

 

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