Chesterton Tribune



Town Council hits the brakes on 1100N annexation

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The Chesterton Town Council has hit the brakes on the annexation of property off 1100N, currently in unincorporated Liberty Township.

The 59 acres are located immediately south of 1100N and mostly west of 23rd Street, across from Dogwood Park, but are also adjacent to the Stone Meadows subdivision to the east. The owner of the property, PSR LLC, is seeking to build a mixed-use planned unit development on the site which has drawn the ire not only of Stone Meadows residents but those in Rosehill Estates and Dogwood Estates.

At their meeting Wednesday night, members voted unanimously to table the proposed annexation until further notice.

They did so for two stated reasons.

First, under what Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, called a “quirk in Indiana law”--which prohibits the annexation of property in the year before a census year--the annexation of the 59 acres in question wouldn’t take effect until 2020 anyway.

Second, a rough consensus appears to have been reached among members that PSR’s concept for the mixed-use PUD--17 single-family homes, nine duplexes, nine triplexes, and a pair of 4,500-square foot commercial buildings--is not in the best interests either of the neighbors or the town as a whole.

“I see no reason to take action at this time because I believe everyone’s time would be better spent working out a reasonable plan of development between all concerned parties, including environmental groups,” DeLaney said. “I would strongly advise the petitioner to meet with all concerned parties and not come back to the town until a reasonable plan of development has been arrived at.”

An item tabled by the council may not be untabled without first a member’s motion, then a second, then an actual vote. Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann strongly urged council members to notify Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela, in advance of a scheduled meeting, should any of them at any time intend to move to untable the annexation. Kuziela would then include the proposed untabling on the next meeting’s agenda and the Chesterton Tribune would publish--as it regularly does under any circumstances--an advance on that meeting on the newspaper’s front page.

In any case, two members on Wednesday made it clear that they’re in no hurry to untable the annexation, given the concept which PSR presented to the Advisory Plan Commission at its last meeting, Thursday, Dec. 20. “We hope there will be some conversation to get this on track to where all parties are happy,” said Member Jim Ton, R-1st. “But at this point I will not vote to untable this.”

With respect to the pair of commercial buildings proposed by PSR, Ton said this: “We own the property across the street, it’s Dogwood Park, and I don’t personally think that’s a good idea.”

“What I saw at Plan Commission is of genuine concern and not just to Stone Meadows,” noted DeLaney. “What I saw of the plan and the push to get it done, I did not generally support. The design is not good. Go back to the drawing board. Work with the concerned parties.”

“We’ve made it clear we want (the PSR PUD) to be conducive to the character of the adjacent subdivision,” DeLaney added. “If I don’t see the (R-1) next to (Stone Meadows), in a year and a half, well then I’ll ruffle some feathers.”

DeLaney did concede that, conceivably, PSR could opt to keep the property unincorporated and seek to develop it before the Porter County Plan Commission. But he suggested that PSR would find that approach an uphill battle. “Have you looked at the county’s standards? They’re pretty tough.”

Among other things, residents have expressed concern--not before the Plan Commission, because President George Stone refused to take comments on Dec. 20, but on social media--of the threat to the R-1 property values at Stone Meadows posed by a mix of R-2 and R-3 along with unspecified commercial uses immediately next to that subdivision. Residents have also expressed concern about the density proposed by PSR and the potential traffic hazards which such density might create at the already busy intersection of 1100N and 23rd Street.

Bill Stone, the developer of Stone Meadows, discussed exactly those issues when he remonstrated against the annexation at a public hearing held by the Town Council on Dec. 10.

In a standing room-only crowd at Wednesday’s meeting, a number of residents spoke against both the annexation and the PSR’s proposed PUD. “I just felt like it was going too fast and it didn’t go with the flow of our neighborhoods,” Mike Candiano said. “And it’s not just a Stone Meadows thing. Anytime you can get this many people in the day after Christmas, it’s a pretty big concern.”

Bill Stone, for his part, thanked the council for tabling the annexation and remarked that he doesn’t oppose the annexation per se but the proposed PUD.

In the meantime, Lukmann emphasized that a vote to untable the annexation is not a vote for annexation. And that a vote for annexation is very much not a vote for the proposed PUD or for any other PUD. The PUD itself is a matter for the Plan Commission, which--if PSR wishes to pursue it--will negotiate with the petitioner a comprehensive list of specifications for the development. At some point the Plan Commission would schedule a preliminary hearing on any PUD ordinance, then at a later date a public hearing. Planners do not themselves enact a PUD ordinance; rather, they make a favorable or unfavorable recommendation and forward it to the Town Council, which is the only body with the authority to pass the PUD ordinance.



Posted 12/27/2018





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