Chesterton Tribune



Town planners debate commercial/industrial or residential for Crocker

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Olthof Homes LLC is looking to get a long dormant planned unit development project--located on 1050N in the Crocker area of Chesterton--off the dime.

The only trick: Olthof is hopeful the Advisory Planning Commission would be amenable either to eliminating or otherwise drastically reducing the commercial component of the mixed-use PUD.

Olthof representative Ed Recktenwall appeared before the Plan Commission at its meeting Thursday night to make the request, after Olthof acquired the 39-acre property on contract earlier this year from original developer Don Coker, who secured approval for the PUD in 2005.

The town duly annexed the site--located south of 1050N and west of the Abercrombie Woods subdivision--in 2007 but Coker, following primary plat approval, let the project go fallow.

As Recktenwall reminded the commission, Coker’s PUD provides for 48 single-family homes in an R-1 strip on the east side of the site, then 23 duplexes in an R-2 strip in the middle, and finally nine acres of mixed business and light industrial on the west side.

Olthof, however--which is currently building homes in the Morgan’s Corner neighborhood of Coffee Creek Center--isn’t in the business of commercial development, Recktenwall said. Olthof’s proposal: either reducing the number of commercial lots on the property or eliminating them altogether. Proposed changes include adding up to 27 more R-2 lots in the middle strip in place of the commercial space to bring the total number of R-2 lots to 50. The 43 R-1 lots would remain unchanged.

Planner Thomas Kopko, however, raised concerns about commercial land going to waste. “I just hate to see us lose more and more commercial,” he said. “I hate to see commercial lose out to residential.”

Planner Sharon Darnell said the same. “Our concern is trying to find places for people to work here, with good-paying jobs.”

Recktenwall responded that in Olthof’s development experience, the commercial market right now is lackluster. But he said that Olthof is willing to compromise with the town and suggested that the northwest corner of the property could be left commercial.

President George Stone indicated that he was unprepared to make any immediate decision. “Without doing a little research, I can’t make a decision one way or another,” he said.

The commission did ask Town Engineer Mark O’Dell what he has observed regarding the level of interest in commercial development in Chesterton. O’Dell said that there is interest but often inquiries focus on Coffee Creek Center and specific vacant parcels of land. Of Springdale, O’Dell said that there hasn’t been any interest. “The west side is dead. I don’t think anyone even knows the parcel exists anymore.”

When Planner Jim Kowalski expressed surprise that Recktenwall was even appearing before the commission, seeking to amend the PUD at this time, O’Dell replied that Olthof first approached staff about the issue and that he directed Recktenwall to the commission. “No decision needs to be made tonight,” O’Dell said. “Just think about it for a month, If you want commercial, they need to know that.”

The commission will revisit the issue at its meeting next month.



Posted 10/20/2017




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