Chesterton Tribune



Planners approve primary plat for double hotel project

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The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission has approved the primary plat for a double-hotel project at Coffee Creek Center.

The lone dissenting vote at Thursday night’s special meeting: planner George Stone’s, on the ground that the orientation of the two hotels--fronting Ind. 49 and accessed by an extended Matson Drive from the south and a new street, Ketring Road, from the north--will lead to traffic congestion in the area of the Culver’s restaurant and AJ’s Pizza.

The two hotels--a Fairfield Inn & Suites and a Holiday Express Inn--are being developed by Amerilodge Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The Fairfield will feature 87 rooms in three stories; the Holiday Inn, 90 rooms in four stories.

Amerilodge’s local attorney, Greg Babcock, told the commission that the site is ideal for the two hotels, not only because of its proximity to Indiana Toll Road but because it’s located next door to several restaurants and the Speedway gas station. “You’re fortunate you have in that setting businesses and amenities to serve the tourist trade,” he said. “You have the ability to capture people from outside the town.”

To which Stone absolutely agreed. “I think this will be a major addition to Chesterton,” he said. But he immediately added that, inasmuch as Blackwell Street--where Matson Drive currently dead-ends--is already generally packed with parked cars on both sides of the roadway, often making it impossible for two oncoming vehicles to pass each other at the same time. Funneling traffic into the hotel site via an extended Matson Drive “will certainly increase the congestion.”

Instead, Stone suggested, the two hotels should face east, not west, and primary access to the site should be off Village Point, with guests of the hotels having the choice of entering and exiting Coffee Creek Center via two main roadways: Gateway Blvd. or Voyage Blvd. “I’m unconvinced having an entrance on the west side is imperative to that business,” he said.

Babcock, speaking for Amerilodge, with all due respect to Stone disagreed. “Facing west is what they believe is the most appropriate place for a successful business,” he said.

Stone’s colleagues on the commission also disagreed. “Say we flipped the entrance around so it’s on Village Point,” he said. “You’re going to increase the traffic on Village Point because everybody will be going in there.” And he added, “Chesterton needs more economic development for the tax base. We can’t stay a bedroom community. We can’t keep being the Community of No.”

“I’m optimistic that extending Matson Drive will help the flow of traffic,” planner Nate Cobbs said for his part. “I’m very excited to have this project. I’m thrilled it’s coming to town.”

“As a frequent traveler, I would appreciate being able to see the hotels off Ind. 49,” planner Fred Owens remarked.

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell, commenting on the original design of the planned unit development ordinance in 1998, indicated that this extreme northwest corner of Coffee Creek Center--with the Speedway, Culver’s, and AJ’s Pizza accessed by Matson Drive and Blackwell Street--was conceived as “its own little subdivision,” with its own traffic pattern intended to keep speeds slow. Village Point, however, has no middle left-turn lane, and funneling hotel guests onto it would likely generate congestion, not relieve it.

Stone remained unpersuaded and cast his vote against the primary plat.

There was a second issue at Thursday’s meeting, and though it proved not to be a sticking point, planner Tom Kopko was adamant about it: the landscaping plan for the east side--the back side--of the two hotels.

So far as Kopko’s concerned, that plan leaves something to be desired. “If you’re going to put the butt end of a motel on a main drag like Village Point, it can’t look like the butt end of a motel,” he said.

Babcock assured Kopko that Amerilodge is working on a landscaping plan which will satisfy him, while O’Dell noted that approval of the secondary plat, possibly at the commission’s December meeting, can be made contingent on the appropriateness of the plan.

At a public hearing which preceding the vote, no one spoke in opposition to it. One person spoke in favor of it, attorney Kevin Warren, representing the Lake Erie Land Company. “We’re here in support of the project,” he said. “This is a good addition.”

Babcock told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting that ground could break on the project sometime in the spring.



Posted 12/3/2018




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