By PAULENE POPARAD
An angry Bruce Niepokoj told members of the Porter Plan Commission that he
and his neighbors will carry their battle against a proposed rezoning to the
Town Council now that the commission voted 4-3 Wednesday recommending the
council act favorably on the petition.
It’s a petition Porter town planner Jim Mandon said is an opportunity the
town should jump at because it’s in direct compliance with its comprehensive
It’s also a petition neighboring property owners say will devalue their land
and change life as they know it if their residential buffer zone is lost. A
remonstrance signed by 31 residents was submitted as was a letter in
Non-profit Duneland Youth Baseball Association, represented by principal
Todd Finner, is seeking to rezone 10.4 acres at 800 Canonie Drive north of
U.S. 20 and west of Tremont Road to a Professional Business or PB zone so he
can sell the acreage and raise money to build baseball fields elsewhere.
The western 3.9 acres of that tract currently are zoned Residential-1. The
remaining 6.5 acres are zoned Business-3 and abut an office complex to the
east also zoned B-3.
No one spoke in favor of the rezoning during a public hearing and 10
speakers were opposed.
All remonstrators wanted DYBA not to rezone the R-1 portion of its land
because it is a buffer for their homes in Dunes View Manor and Dune Manor
subdivisions to the west. Some, like Niepokoj, said they never would have
bought or built homes there if they had known the neighboring field could be
rezoned to PB.
Commission member Ken Timm reminded residents they don’t own the field. “You
really don’t have a 300-foot buffer unless you own 300 feet.”
Mandon and commission member Jim Eriksson emphasized that the allowable uses
under the PB zoning were far preferable and less intrusive than those in a
B-3 zone. PB is restricted to uses such as medical and professional offices,
banks, health and fitness facilities and churches while B-3 allows
warehousing, truck stops, a lumber yard or gasoline station.
A PB zone also requires closer scrutiny when someone plans to develop it,
Mandon added, like having more landscaping, berms and appropriate setbacks.
When Finner first presented his plans this summer, his intention was to
rezone the entire 10.4 acres to Business-3. The Plan Commission’s reaction
was less than enthusiastic.
Last night Finner’s attorney, Russell Milbranth, said the decision was made
to seek a PB zone instead because it is intended to be a transitional
district between business and residential uses under Porter’s zoning
ordinance and therefore would enhance neighboring property values.
The residents weren’t buying it.
“It looks fine but it screws the neighbors,” said Laura Crownover, who owns
two properties in the area. “PB is nice, provided you don’t take away the
Connie and Joseph Goysich both were opposed. “I don’t see how a bush or a
tree or a shrub would increase the value of our property,” he said. She said
there is no park in the area and children would lose the safety they feel
playing in their neighborhood.
Niepokoj and others asked the commission not to let DYBA rezone the R-1
portion of its land. President Lorain Bell said the commission has to vote
on the petition before it, and Finner did not indicate he wanted to change
it. “We can’t do half this one way or another. It’s a stand-up deal. You
either vote it down or up.”
Commission member and Porter building commissioner Bill Lewis said if
nothing is rezoned, any new homes in DYBA’s R-1 portion would have B-3 uses
as their neighbor, which wouldn’t be good for them or the existing homes to
Adjacent property owner Norman Tapper asked who would reimburse him when his
land is devalued with a business next door. He also said he wasn’t notified
of the hearing. Milbranth said he relied on Porter County property records,
and Plan Commission attorney Patrick Lyp said the fact Tapper was present
made the notice issue moot.
Milbranth said a PB zoning is logical because insurance and law offices
likely won’t be having late-night parties or other evening activities to
which the neighbors would object. He also said with Lake Erie Land
developing commercial property across U.S. 20 to the southwest, DYBA’s plans
The Town Council of late has been actively trying to encourage economic
development in Porter.
Eriksson said by going with a PB rather than B-3 zoning, DYBA would receive
less money; he asked Finner to go one step farther to be a good neighbor and
consider not rezoning the R-1 acreage. Milbranth said Finner understands it
will be a challenge to market the site with PB’s limitations but they accept
It was Lewis’ motion to forward the petition with a favorable
recommendation. Vote was Timm, Sandi Snyder, Greg Stinson and Lewis voting
yes with Eriksson, Paul Childress and Bell voting no. Snyder and Childress
are also Town Council members and will vote on the rezoning there.
Childress said he would feel more comfortable if a development plan for a
specific use were before him. “I want to know what we’ll actually do before
we rezone, not hope for the best.” Mandon said it makes no sense to market
property with a contingency.
After a long pause Eriksson said he voted no regretfully because if the
rezoning isn’t granted, “In the future if it is a B-3, it might be something
we can’t stop.” Agreed Mandon, “You could have a tremendously large,
obnoxious B-3 use on the property no one in town would want. It’s a tough
decision, it really is --- what’s best for the whole town and what’s
detrimental to the neighbors.”