Chesterton Tribune



Town Attorney declines to share legal opinion on Nekus retirement village

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Chesterton Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson has provided the Advisory Plan Commission with his legal opinion of John Nekus’ concept of a “retirement village,” which Nekus wants to develop on 11.28 acres zoned B-3 and located behind the Chesterton Post Office.

At the Plan Commission’s meeting Thursday night, however, Parkinson declined to share that opinion with Nekus’ attorney, Greg Babcock, citing the privilege of attorney-client confidentiality.

At issue: does Nekus’ concept for multiple duplexes on individually platted and sold lots really constitute a “retirement village” as defined by the Zoning Ordinance?

That definition: “A business venture for the establishment of a retirement village for senior citizens that will provide for the privacy of the individual residents in private dwelling units but also including such basic services as barber shops, beauty shops, gift shops, pharmacies, and a centralized kitchen and dining area.”

Further: “A retirement village must also meet all of the following criteria: “(1) Have a centralized kitchen and dining area to accommodate all occupants of the facility; (2) have a full-time staff member on site; (3) comply with all ADA requirements; (4) have a maximum of two persons per unit; and (5) at least one occupant of each unit must be at least 55 years of age.”

On Thursday, Babcock specifically requested a copy of Parkinson’s legal opinion, and Parkinson bluntly refused, citing his confidential relationship with his client, the Plan Commission. Parkinson did, however, summarize his core finding: that Nekus may proceed to seek the plattage of the retirement village on “shared lots,” that is, on each individually platted lot on which a duplex would be constructed.

“Bottom line,” Parkinson said, “the retirement village may be platted into individually platted lots. “That is the bottom line.”

“But,” Parkinson told Babcock, “there are elements of that opinion that ought to remain confidential.” To the planners, Parkinson added, “There are things in the opinion I would like to discuss with you.”

Planner Jeff Trout was, at first, surprised by Parkinson’s reticence. “We know from this document what your legal opinion is but we’re not sharing with the petitioner what that opinion is?”

“We render opinions presumptively on privilege,” Parkinson replied. “You could waive that privilege.”

Planner James Kowalski, for his part, expressed his willingness not to waive it. “I think we should follow our attorney’s advice,” he said.

Kowalski’s colleagues concurred.

“The next step is for the petitioner to submit a plat,” Parkinson said. “And that’s the point at which the definition of “retirement village” will be discussed.”

Earlier this year the Plan Commission voted 5-2 to forward Nekus’ planned unit development to the Town Council with an unfavorable recommendation, after residents to the west, in Westchester South, and those to the north, on Richter Street, vociferously objected to the PUD, citing density, possible drainage issues, and traffic congestion. The Town Council subsequently voted unanimously to reject the PUD ordinance.


Posted 8/16/2019




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