Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton Town Council expands Coffee Creek 'riverfront' alcohol district to Toll Road

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When first created in 2009, the Town of Chesterton’s officially designated riverfront district--within the boundaries of which a dining establishment may receive an alcohol license exempt from local quotas--extended 3,000 feet on either side of Coffee Creek between Woodlawn Ave. and East Porter Ave.

Several restaurants have benefited from the riverfront designation, including Villa Nova Pizzeria & Bistro, The Octave Grill, Ivy’s Bohemia House, Lemon Tree Mediterranean Grill., and Gastro 49. Most recently, the new owner of the old Popolano’s space at 225 S. Calumet Road, Chicago restaurateur and cordon bleu Dino Cocco, applied to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (IATC) for a three-way license under the designation.

And perhaps very soon, other restaurateurs in the more far-flung areas of Chesterton may be doing the same thing. Because at its meeting Monday night the Town Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution which extends the 6,000-foot swath of riverfront district south from East Porter Ave. to the Indiana Toll Road.

Members did so with an eye in particular on Coffee Creek’s meander through Coffee Creek Center. “I think it’s an excellent idea for economic development in this area,” noted Member Jim Ton, R-1st. “We’re getting a lot of growth there.”

Applications to the IATC under the riverfront designation aren’t automatically granted, Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann added. A municipality’s executive board needs to endorse it, as the Chesterton Town Council has previously endorsed the applications of Villa Nova et al. And Town Manager Bernie Doyle “is making sure we’re talking about quality dining, not roadhouses,” Lukmann said.

Change of Plan

In other business, Brian Lewandowski of Benlew Enterprises LLC signaled his willingness to abandon his petition for a right-of-way agreement with the town--concerning a platted but unimproved portion of 22nd Street immediately north of Westchester Ave.--and instead pursue a vacation of that municipal right-of-way.

Benlew Enterprises is seeking to build a pair of duplexes at 2190 Westchester Ave., but residents would only be able to access the property via the unimproved right-of-way. Building a road to town specifications would prove prohibitively expensive, so Lewandowski had instead proposed a right-of-way agreement, under which Benlew Enterprises would have graveled the right-of-way to make it passable but the town would have retained actual ownership of it.

The problem is, the legal system in recent years has taken a dim view of right-of-way agreements and even under the most carefully prepared one a town would be exposed to liability, Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann has concluded. So Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, proposed an alternative solution: the council would be amenable to vacating the right-of-way, deeding half of it--from the center line east--to Benlew Enterprises, and the other half--from the center line west--to the adjacent property owner.

A good solution, Ton agreed. “You would own half of the street and the town wouldn’t have liability,” he said.

Members voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the vacation at its Aug. 8 meeting, in advance of which staff will ensure that the town is contemplating no future use of that portion of 22nd Street.

BZA Appointment

Meanwhile, members voted unanimously to appoint Richard Riley to the open seat on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Riley is the owner of Riley’s Railhouse, the railroad-themed bed-and-breakfast at 123 N. Fourth St. in Downtown Chesterton.

The vacancy on the BZA was created by the recent resignation of Rodney Corder. Three other persons applied for the seat, Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela told members.

Railroad Quiet Zones

Ton took a moment at the end of the meeting to suggest to his colleagues that the council begin setting aside an unspecified portion of the town’s annual CEDIT moneys to help fund, when the time comes, the establishment of a railroad quiet zone, in which the engineers of passing trains are freed from the federal requirement that they sound their horns at all at-grade crossings.

Quiet zones are in fact expensive undertakings, inasmuch as it can cost $250,000 to retrofit each crossing with double guard arms and curbed median islands. And the town will need the buy-in of both Porter County and the Town of Porter, since a quiet zone extends one-half mile on either side of an at-grade crossing, DeLaney noted.

Ton indicated that he understood but suggested that salting away some funds would at least get the ball rolling. “If you don’t start somewhere, then you stay static, and I don’t think that responsive,” he said.

Doyle added that it can take one to two years actually to implement a quiet zone and that all four at-grade crossings along the Norfolk Southern line--South Calumet Road, Fourth Street, North Eighth Street, and North Jackson Blvd.--would have to be retrofitted at the same time.


Posted 7/13/2016





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