Chesterton Tribune



Apartment development at waterpark site continues to move forward

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The Porter Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals met for in-person meetings Wednesday night. Board and audience members sat six feet apart from each other and all wore masks.

First, the Plan Commission approved the final detailed plan from Weiss Entities, the Chicago-based developer who plans to build an apartment complex on the site of the old Splash Down Dunes Waterpark at the northeast corner of Waverly Road and U.S. 20.

Weiss Attorney Richard Anderson reported the final detailed plan has little new information besides some added dimensions. Final detailed plan approval is a formality to ensure that the development plan remains consistent with previously approved plans. Weiss does not yet have permission to build and in fact has not yet officially acquired the property. White Stallion LLC, the operator of the former Waterpark, still owns the property and has given Weiss power of attorney to petition the Town regarding the property, according to Weiss attorney Richard Anderson.

Building Commissioner Michael Barry reported he and Town Planner Jim Mandon reviewed the plan, and it meets the Town’s requirements for final detailed plan approval. The Planners approved it unanimously.

Weiss’ plan to erect several buildings that would house as many as 318 apartments on the 18-acre site in an approximately $35 million investment has drawn intense criticism from Porter residents who oppose the planned development’s density and location, among other complaints. The Porter Town Council approved a planned unit development (PUD) for the property in January, and demolition on the site has begun.

Next, Diane and William Solivois petitioned the Planners to approve a plan to combine four lots at 1510 Fleming into two lots. The property is zoned R-1, Single-family residential, large lot. According to notes from Town Planner Jim Mandon, who was not present at the meeting, the property, which has a house and an accessory structure, meets the Town’s lot size requirements for subdivision of lots. Barry said the move wouldn’t require any additional utilities or public improvements.

The Planners opted to hold a public hearing for the plan in the same meeting, and no one spoke for or against it. The Planners approved it unanimously.

In other business, the Planners set a public hearing for proposed changes to the Town’s temporary sign ordinance for July 15. Board Attorney Laura Frost said the changes only apply to temporary signs and clarify that residents cannot be cited for temporary signs based on the signs’ content. Barry said the changes also simplify the ordinance at hand.

The Board of Zoning Appeals was scheduled to meet after the Planners, but the one petitioner on their agenda, Brian Lewandowski, who was planning to seek a variance to allow an accessory structure on a parcel without a principal structure, withdrew his petition because he can’t obtain a septic permit for the parcel.

Instead, Barry and Mandon report Lewandowski’s property qualifies for transitional use as a residential warehouse area because the proposed structure will be primarily used for storage, the parcel is less than 300 feet in width, and the parcel borders a railroad right-of-way. Barry reports Lewandowski wants a cluster of small storage buildings, either set up in a U-shape or a couple buildings side-by-side. Town code would require him to screen this area with a six-foot tall fence and bring a site plan to the Town for approval before he can obtain a building permit.

The BZA accepted the withdrawal of Lewandowski’s petition, then adjourned.

Why isn’t Porter live-streaming?

Porter resident Jennifer Klug addressed the Plan Commission during its public comment period to suggest the Town of Porter start live-streaming its meetings or otherwise make them more accessible to people who may not feel comfortable attending in-person.

Klug noted that nearby Towns and the County have all been holding virtual meetings since Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb handed down a shelter-in-place order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Barry, for his part, said the Town Council had made a couple of attempts to set-up a live-stream but hasn’t nailed down a procedure yet.

Klug noted that even if a live-stream isn’t possible, there could be other ways for the Town to be more proactive. Klug used the Westchester Library Board as an example, citing their meeting last week where citizens were invited to join the meeting by conference call.

The Town of Porter is the only local government unit that the Chesterton Tribune routinely covers that hasn’t moved their meetings to a virtual format. Other units are also adding instructions on how citizens can participate, such as the phone number to call or the procedures for in-person attendance, to their meeting agendas and announcements. Porter has not.


Posted 5/22/2020




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