The Chesterton Town Council split-vote at its meeting Monday night to
re-zone the Porter County Commissioner’s ambulance barn at the southwest
corner of East Porter Ave. and Ind. 49 from R-2 to B-2.
Member Jim Ton, R-1st—concerned about the “sacred ground” of the Vietnam War
Memorial located on the 2.4-acre parcel—cast the lone vote against the
Members declined to suspend the rules and approve the re-zoning ordinance on
second reading. They will do so at their next meeting, June 27.
The re-zoning ordinance came to the council with a 4-1 endorsement from the
Advisory Plan Commission. Planner Jeff Ton—a resident of Morgan Park, just
across East Porter Ave. from the ambulance barn—voted against the
Attorney Greg Babcock, representing the Porter County Commissioners, has
explained that Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce needs the re-zone in
order to obtain financing for its proposed $170,000 welcome sign and LED
message board, located south of the ambulance barn on the Commissioners’
The Porter County Commissioners have agreed to written commitments which
would exclude a number of future B-2 uses of the property: nursing home,
retirement village, greenhouse, all auto-service uses, retail food sales and
fast food restaurants, recreational uses, fireworks, alcohol sales, and
The following B-2 uses would still be permitted: bank without drive-through,
business offices, child care, medical/veterinary, tanning salon, funeral
home, church, antique store, florist, and office supply, among others.
At a public hearing which preceded the vote, one person, Jill Long, a
resident of Morgan Park, spoke at length against the re-zone. Long said that
she lives 115 yards from the ambulance barn and that Porter hospital EMS
personnel have always been “excellent neighbors.”
Long based her opposition to the re-zone chiefly on any possibility of the
Porter County Commissioners’ electing to close the ambulance barn and sell
the property to a business. Doing so, she said, would leave the Duneland
community “without an ambulance service and we know what Ind. 49 is like
when it’s slippery.”
“We have enough traffic on Porter Ave. and Roosevelt Street,” Long added.
“It’s a clone of the Indianapolis 500.”
Long also argued that Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd—whose business, Trout Glass &
Mirror, belongs to the Chamber—should not vote on the re-zone because to do
so could constitute a conflict of interest.
Babcock opened his response to Long’s remonstration by saying that the
Future Land Use Map of the newly revised Chesterton Comprehensive Plan
provides for a commercial zone of the property in question.
More to the point, Babcock said, “the Porter County Commissioners have
indicated that there’s not one ounce of truth that they’re going to close
the ambulance center.”
Jim Ton, however, noted that he has seen no such commitment in writing from
the Porter County Commissioners. “Why not make a statement that it will stay
the ambulance station?” Ton asked. “Why should all these (B-2) exemptions be
given, when it would be just simple to say it will stay an ambulance
Both Trout and Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, for their parts, noted that
they’ve been in contact with Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North,
who expressed his wish to know “where the rumor started” in the first place
that the ambulance barn would be closed.
“The rumor got started because the county put in for a change of zoning,”
DeLaney, as it happens, was the first to broach the issue of the Vietnam War
Memorial. “That’s not going anywhere,” he said. “Everybody would pretty much
be up in arms if it did.”
Ton agreed. “It’s sacred ground,” he said. “I don’t want anything to
disrespect or make it difficult to honor our veterans. Any kind of business
on that corner is going to hinder access to that memorial. And it’s sacred
“I feel (the Porter County Commissioners’) assurances are valid and sincere
and they have no intention of selling that property,” Ton added. “But
tomorrow is never sure. At some point that could change in the blink of an
Members then voted 4-1 to re-zone the property.
Trout did note later in the meeting that, even should the Porter County
Commissioners close the ambulance barn—which he said is highly unlikely—Duneland
will still have the ambulance service to be provided by Saint Anthony
Memorial’s new 24-hour freestanding ER facility on Indian Boundary Road,
once it opens.
A Second Re-zone
Earlier in the meeting, members voted 5-0 to approve on first reading an
ordinance re-zoning from B-3 to R-1 two parcels at 190 E. Mekeland Lane, 5-0
to suspend the rules, then 5-0 to approve the ordinance on final reading.
The parcels—located north of U.S. Highway 20 and west of Veden Road—are
owned by Lewis and Lisa Graff, who want to build a home on the site.