Chesterton Tribune



Town residents angered by decision to forbid public comment on 1100N PUD; annexation on agenda Wednesday

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Residents of the Stone Meadows subdivision off 1100N were disappointed--and angry--not to have a chance at Thursday night’s Chesterton Plan Commission meeting to voice their concerns about a planned unit development (PUD) proposed for a 59-acre site immediately to the west of their neighborhood.

Those 59 acres are located in currently unincorporated Liberty Township but the Town Council is scheduled to vote on that annexation at its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 26.

The proposed PUD, under development by PSR LLC, was the subject of a concept review on Thursday, the first and most informal step in the PUD process. Planners are not obligated to allow public comment on a proposed development during concept review. Neither are they obligated to forbid public comment. President George Stone, however--faced with a roomful of people, most of whom were there for a public hearing scheduled later in the meeting--declined to take comment on the PSR project.

Which prompted William Stone, the developer of Stone Meadows, to accuse planners of “suppressing public opinion.”

“I live in this town, I pay taxes, I vote,” William Stone said. “You’re going to let someone who doesn’t pay property taxes (in Chesterton) and who’s going to get their land annexed have their say before I do.”

“For us it’s just an informal discussion at this point,” George Stone replied.

And there wasn’t in fact much discussion on the PSR project at all. Attorney Greg Babcock, representing PSR, told planners that only 25 acres of the 59 in question are developable, the rest of them being wetland. The PUD features 17 single-family homes, nine paired patio, and nine triplex, along with a pair of commercial buildings 4,500 square feet each. The latter could be used for offices, a coffee shop or cafe, spa/nails, “that sort of thing,” Babcock said.

When planner Tom Kopko inquired about drainage, Babcock said that it will “drain itself naturally, using the lay of the land, to the south.”

That was the sum total of the discussion.

What To Know

* The Town Council held a public hearing on the annexation at its Dec. 10 meeting, at which William Stone remonstrated against the project as described by Babcock. In particular, he objected to the density of the PUD, the traffic congestion which he said would be likely caused at the intersection of 23rd Street and 1100N, and its possible impact on the property values of the larger single-family homes in Stone Meadows.

* The Town Council is scheduled to vote on the annexation itself at its next meeting, Wednesday, Dec. 26. The council normally meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, but this year the fourth falls on Christmas Eve.

* The annexation of the 59 acres is an altogether separate issue from its development. Its annexation does not guarantee that it will be developed as PSR has proposed or that it will be developed at all anytime soon. Several different sites annexed into the town in recent years--two large ones, for instance, on the south side of the Indiana Toll Road--remain fallow to this day.

* If the Town Council votes to annex the property, it will come into the town as R-1. But PSR is proposing a planned unit development, a PUD, which is, in essence, a set of specifications negotiated by PRS and the Plan Commission. PUDs can feature, among other things, mixed uses, smaller lot sizes, and narrower setbacks, all of which would be codified by applicable variances from the Zoning Ordinance.

* At Thursday’s meeting, Stone Meadows residents wanted to know exactly when they will have the opportunity to remonstrate against the proposed PUD. At this point, no public hearing has been scheduled and no one can say when it might be. The next step in the process will be a preliminary hearing, which could be scheduled for the planners’ January meeting but hasn’t yet been. There is no public-comment component in a preliminary hearing. There is, however, at the third step in the process: the public hearing proper.

* The Plan Commission is required by the Indiana Open Door Law to notify the public no later than 48 hours of its next meeting. The Chesterton Plan Commission always does so, with an agenda. The Chesterton Tribune routinely runs an advance on that meeting with information about the agenda, and then routinely covers that meeting in detail. When a public hearing has been scheduled on the PSR public hearing, the Tribune will run an advance on it, on the front page of the paper.

* The Plan Commission is technically named the Advisory Plan Commission. That means that planners vote to endorse or not to endorse a particular PUD ordinance. But the Town Council is the body which formally approves or rejects the PUD ordinance itself.


Posted 12/21/2019




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