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Medical campus wins plat approval; Family Express drops gas station

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Now entering its third year of development, the proposed Porter Medical Campus got a big push from the Porter County Plan Commission on Wednesday.

“I think this is an excellent project. A lot of time was put into this,” planner Sylvia Graham said.

All nine planners said yes to the primary plat of 83 some acres of the 109-acre site that have commercial settings at its U.S. 6 entrance. Nearly half the property, about 50 acres, will be medical offices and emergency services and to its north will be assisted living facilities.

The northernmost section near the NIPSCO right of way consisting of homes for senior living will be submitted for its own plat approval at a later date said Todd Leeth, legal representative for the development.

Approximately 25 percent of the area will be open space with ponds and rain gardens, walking paths and nature trails designed by the landscape architect Christopher Lannert of The Lannert Group. Drainage in the north will be directed to Damon Run and in the southern sections water will flow west and collect into a series of retention ponds.

Leeth said the many of the lots in the subdivision will be combined.

Family Express wants easement

Joining in the planners in the plat requests are two homeowners after there had been five originally at the start of the project. One of the properties in the southeast corner of the district zoned moderately commercial was purchased by Family Express Corporation (FE) this spring which is not a part of the plat.

The company had proposed to build a fueling station and convenience store on the parcel with a right-in, right-out entrance with a curb cutout. The classification of uses in the zone negotiated by the developer St. Andrews and the county planners did not include automotive fueling stations as part of the agreement (nor are oil change stations or tattoo/piercing parlors permitted).

FE attorney Todd Etzler the proposal for the fuel station “is off the table” but the company intends to put up some kind of commercial building but has not yet made a decision of what the use will be.

Etzler said that FE is seeking an easement on the north of its three-acre parcel that would allow access to the roadway that connects the hospital and the medical campus subdivision. Part of the process would also be to connect to water and sewer utilities.

Etzler spoke about the matter to the planners but both FE and the medical campus developers are negotiating among themselves a fair price for the easement and utilities. Leeth said he feels they are close to coming to an agreement on terms and the matter will not stall his client’s developments.

The Damon Run Conservancy District will be the sewer provider for the property and Leeth said the property has official been incorporated into the district. Supplying the drinking water is Indiana American Water Company, the same two providers for the neighboring Porter Regional Hospital.

Entrance undecided

Opening the case up to the public to comment, the developers were asked by Tanner Trace resident Don Trowbridge if there will be a traffic light at the entrance and if there would be enough separation between the entrance to medical campus and the Tanner Trace driveway to avoid traffic issues.

Leeth said the road entrance to the medical campus and a stoplight will have to be determined by Indiana Department of Transportation since it has jurisdiction over U.S. 6 and currently is reviewing the plans by St. Andrews. The developers are looking to have a northern entryway coming from the already developed St. Andrews residential subdivision.

Plan Commission President Nancy Adams, a county commissioner for the central district, said she has kept in close contact with INDOT over widening U.S. 6 but the work will probably not take place until at least 2016 since the agency in recent years has seen less money earmarked to it. However, if counties can put forward some funding of their own then INDOT could be persuaded to move the project up.

Adams said placing a tax increment financing (TIF) district in that area would provide some funding for the widening project. Before they can be implemented, TIFs would first have to be proposed by the county’s Redevelopment Commission which the County Commissioners formed this year.

Hoping to solve many of the traffic issues, Adams said she thinks a “dog bone” style roundabout should be implemented and would cut down on the number of traffic lights on U.S. 6 from Ind. 49 to Meridian Road.

Graham, an at large member of the County Council, told Tribune it’s her opinion that county money should not be spent on U.S. 6 since it is not a county road.

Drainage “still scares”

Neighbor Jim Brown said he was not against the development but inquired as to how water drainage would be kept off Tanner Trace residencies if it is all directed west off the medical campus.

Engineer Jim Hipskind of Palm and Associates, the firm picked for storm water design, said the water run-off on the southern half of the property would collect in one retention pond and if that can’t hold it, the water would flow into a second retention pond. Leeth added that the water would leave at a slower rate than it does today which is compliant with the county’s Unified Development Ordinance.

Drainage “still scares” planner Tim Cole, who emphasized the importance of having superlative drainage design in this particular area, the U.S. 6 overlay district.

“Planning for the people is good for the people. It’s good for the county,” Cole said.

The drainage plans for the medical campus are listed for review by the County Drainage Board at its next meet at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 15.

The drainage issues also still scare Cole’s fellow planner and Liberty Twp. resident Herb Read expressed concern for the how the development will affect traffic.

“I don’t know if there is any good solution to that. We’ve got to make the best of it with the deck, the deal, the hand we have been given as planners,” Read said.

A series of independent reviews of the engineering were done by DLZ Indiana who have signed off on the plans but Read said another look should be taken for the many variances the developers received from the BZA.

A showpiece

The drainage fears were not enough to shake any member of the commission, which passed the project on a 9-0 vote.

Planners Kevin Breitzke and Richard Burns complimented Lannert’s innovative landscaping features.

“It’s going to be a showpiece for this type of subdivision,” said Burns.

 

 

Posted 9/28/2012