Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Chesterton Town Council okays Alliance Business Center south of the Toll Road

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The Chesterton Town Council has approved the planned unit development ordinance for the Alliance Business Center, proposed for construction at Ind. 49 and 950N, south of the Indiana Toll Road in incorporated Liberty Township.

The council did so over the objections of unincorporated Liberty Township residents, two of whom appeared at Monday night’s meeting to make the point that, in a perfect world, the views of out-of-town property owners should be heeded as well.

Members voted 5-0 to approve the PUD on first reading, 5-0 to suspend the rules, then 5-0 to approve the PUD on final reading.

The westernmost 56 acres of the parcel--commonly called the old Pope property--would allow Industrial-1 and Industrial 2 uses as well as medical-related facilities, test laboratories, and a distribution center with trailer storage. The Zoning Ordinance defines I-1 as “light industrial,” or industries “which do not cause conditions that would be objectionable to neighboring properties”; and I-2 as “heavy industrial,” or those with “certain intensive industrial operations which may have some objectionable characteristics.”

The easternmost 24 acres would allow Business-3 and Residential-3 uses, including possibly 20 living units above retail, should the market drive the project in that direction. B-3 is defined by the Zoning Ordinance as “lower density, open space type of use relating principally to automotive sales and service, businesses requiring outdoor storage facilities, and quasi-business industrial facilities.” There are few B-3 uses not already permitted in B-2 districts. Unique B-3 uses include auto sales, major auto repair, auto wash, mobile home sales, boat sales, and hotel or motel.

The PUD was previously endorsed by the Advisory Plan Commission at its October meeting, following a public hearing at which numerous residents of unincorporated Liberty Township voiced their objections.

On Monday two did so again. Bette Kamaski--who said that she lives across the street from the Pope property--expressed her belief that adjacent landowners who happen to be out-of-towners have been disenfranchised. “I feel a little bit like Chesterton just came in and said ‘This is what we’re doing. We don’t care about you people.’ Does our opinion count?”

Kamaski also objected to what she characterized as a lack of specificity about the development itself. “How far back away from my property is it going to be?” she asked. “There are so many things you can’t give me answers for. It’s like approving something without getting all the pieces.”

Herb Read, representing the Woodville Foundation--a newly established not-for-profit intended to be the “voice for the people who live or work in Liberty Township”--made the point that the “proposed land use” for the Alliance Business Center “is drastically different from what has been the long-standing zoning and land use.”

“Almost all of the area, both annexed and incorporated, has been agricultural or residential,” Read said. “It is reasonable to assume that most of the surrounding residents have relied on the current zoning to protect their investment and living conditions. Put the PUD inclusion of I-1 and I-2 uses so far distant from any existing industrial use cannot by any standard be regarded as good planning and would have an adverse effect upon the surrounding residential uses. We might add the problem of the design of the local roads and heavy industrial traffic.”

“The Woodville Foundation is astute enough to realize that elected office holders may, and usually do, ignore the concerns of people who are not their direct constituents,” Read added. “All we can do is ask you to consider omitting any industrial uses within the PUD which impacts the neighborhood.”

Discussion

Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd--who also sits on the Advisory Plan Commission--said in response that, at the moment, there in fact is “not a specific layout yet” of the development. “Rock-solid plans don’t exist right now,” he said.

Nor can the developers themselves say what industrial uses in particular they hope to attract to the site, Trout said. But--while conceding that “industrial sounds scary”--he noted that a world-class manufacturer like Urschel Laboratories Inc. is also classified as industrial. “That’s the direction we’d like to go and the Alliance developers would like to go.”

But, Trout said, nothing will happen on the property, no ground will be broken, until the developers have submitted for primary plat approval their site plan, as they’re required to do under the Subdivision Ordinance. That site plan must be approved by the Advisory Plan Commission after a public hearing on it.

On the issue of drainage, which some Liberty landowners have cited as a concern, Trout promised that stormwater management “is something we’re very cautious about,” not the least because the Indiana Department of Environmental Management “watches us very carefully.”

And Trout promised that the town will “commit to buffering.”

Trout did say that the town has every intention of being as considerate “as we can” to surrounding landowners. “But I can tell you this,” he said. “We’re going to do it.” The Alliance Business Center will be good for the Town of Chesterton, will increase its assessed valuation, could lower folks’ property taxes, and will create jobs.

“Pope came to us,” said Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th. “We did not seek him. And it’s a great opportunity for the town. It’s up to us to be a good neighbor.”

 

 

Posted 10/29/2013