Chesterton Tribune

Plan Commission unanimously favors Brincka Cross rezoning

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Parks received a favorable recommendation of 9-0 from the county plan commission Wednesday to rezone its 25-acre Brincka-Cross Gardens Park from Rural Residential (RR) to Parks and Recreation (P2).

The property located at 427 E. Furness Road in Pine Township was purchased by the parks department in 2007 and officially opened to the public in April 2010. It is noted for its rare plant life imported by the original owners, William Brincka and Basil Cross, who incorporated their artistic skills into their four-acre garden area.

“There are plants there that don’t exist anywhere in the Midwest,” said County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos.

Before the vote, the planners got an earful of remonstrations from nearly half a dozen neighbors unhappy with the way the county is currently developing the park, alleging that park officials are “destroying the refuge of wildlife in the area.” Trees have been cleared away as the department makes way for parking and trails in the future.

One neighbor said that Brincka and Cross, who have both since passed away, would “be just absolutely disgusted” with the way the county has cleared away the trees on the property.

More neighboring residents added to the list of issues saying the roads to travel on are in poor condition and schools buses traveling to the park could be a safety issue. The road makes a sharp curve near the entrance of the property. Others contended the zoning would have a negative impact on property values and drainage, but the largest agitation seemed to stem from the fact the neighbors had not been properly notified prior to changes on the property.

County planner Ray Joseph, who presented the petition with Lenckos, said planning for the park has been openly discussed at county park board meetings and that officials are working to improve water quality as it leaves the site. The trees removed are primarily black ash trees or others that have invaded the property. Lenckos mentioned he has a list of the trees that are to be protected.

Lenckos said he expects only a few visitors at the park during the day, about 10 to 20. He said it is a “low-impact” park set up with trails for visitors to tour the gardens and the surrounding wooded areas.

Planners Rick Burns and Sylvia Graham sympathized with the neighbors saying they were “a little torn” hearing the problems with drainage and the traffic safety.

While agreeing there may be issues with school buses travelling on the curvy Furness Rd., fellow planner Lyndsay Ploehn said clearing away invasive species of trees would benefit neighboring properties and saw the parks potential educational value.

“It’s a prized area I would like people to be able to see,” said Ploehn.

Planner and longtime parks supporter Herb Read reiterated the point the media has been reporting on developments at Brincka-Cross regularly.

“If you were opposed to it as a park, you’re a little late,” Read said to audience. “I don’t think we should get hung up on whether this is a county park. It is a county park and I think the zoning should reflect that.”

He said from his experience living near or within a park “is a benefit” and “not something to be afraid of.”

More support for the park came from other planners such as Richard Maxey and Tim Cole who said the parks department is probably the best owner to preserve the property the way Brincka and Cross developed it. A private owner would be free to alter the property to their liking, Cole said.

Lenckos later invited neighbors in the audience to tour the park and discuss the development with him.

In other business, the council split on appointing a board appointee to the new Development Review Committee which will examine plans for minor developments. Four votes went to Read and four went to planner and county surveyor Kevin Breitzke who were the two nominees. Ploehn was not present at the time the vote was made.

A revote will be taken at the commission’s next meeting on April 11.

 

Posted 3/16/2012