Chesterton Tribune

Porter County BZA says yes to new church at US 6 and Indiana 49

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously Wednesday 5-0 in support of a petition to allow a new 10,000 square-foot church on the southeast corner of Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in unincorporated Liberty Twp.

About 20 members of the First Christian Church of Chesterton turned out in support of a use variance that would allow the church to be built in a Rural Residential zoning district.

Presenting the request, design engineer Steve DeBold of Chester Architectural Services said the church since 2000 has owned two parcels of land totaling about 15 and a half acres with the intention of relocating there with a “solid, existing structure.”

Lead pastor of First Christian Church Tim Wanless said the church is holding its services at the Duneland YMCA for the time being until construction of the new building is complete.

“We would just enjoy a building that we could meet in,” Wanless told the board.

The site currently has a small picnic shelter the church uses for outdoor events and vacation bible school. It is surrounded by woods and is accessible by a cul-de-sac that branches from U.S. 6 southward.

Because of its adjacency to the new Porter Regional Hospital, potential traffic issues were on the minds of the BZA members.

“It (traffic) should be the number one concern,” said BZA member and Liberty Twp. resident Tim Cole. He said approaching the site from the west is more difficult than approaching from the east and suggested the church should ultimately find alternate routes to mitigate traffic.

Fellow board member Marvin Brickner said his main worry regards drainage conditions since the site sits in a low area.

DeBold said the plans include a new septic and water system and the site will adhere to the county’s stormwater code. The site will also be kept in its natural state as much as possible and there are no plans currently to remove trees.

As for the traffic, Wanless said his church sees on average 130 people at two Sunday services starting at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and would not plan for any activities in the evenings other than a Wednesday night prayer service. The church does not plan for a daycare or similar activities, he said.

If traffic does become a problem, Wanless said the church would hire a police officer to guide traffic as churchgoers leave after services, similar to what some of the bigger churches in the area do.

Since service is on a Sunday morning, not as many vehicles are out at the time as there are during the work week, Wanless said and mentioned the church may consider additional access points from the highway.

“I really don’t see (traffic) being a problem at all,” said Wanless, who added that The Courts sports complex directly to the north sees a higher volume of people and has no major traffic issues.

No one during the public spoke against the request, which Brickner said he was surprised about, given the residential atmosphere of the area.

“A church back there is going to change the whole complexion to the area,” he said.

The commitments to look out for traffic and drainage persuaded all members to vote favorably. DeBold said the next step will be to get building plans over to the plan commission.

Once the church is ready to break ground after obtaining the right permits and variances, construction should take approximately eight months.

Plans indicate the sanctuary will face westward and include 250 seats. Parking areas and drives will surround the church.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted 8/17/2012