Sunday, July 27, 2008

Decision time in Chesterton - NIMBY or Growth Story

From the Times:

CHESTERTON | The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission voted unanimously last week to give a favorable recommendation for rezoning a 51-acre plot of land known as Coffee Creek Crossing from residential to business/commercial, despite heavy opposition from local residents.

The land, located on the town's far southeast side, potentially will house a 300,000-square-foot retail area, including possibly a Wal-Mart, said Jeff Ban, of DVG Inc., representing I-80 Partners LLC, which owns the land.

The Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce's new Managing Director Heather Ennis said she sees this move toward development as a positive one for the town.

"When my son grows up here, I want him to stay here," Ennis said. "When we have new business come to town, it makes the community the place where people will want to live, and, with a desirable work force, it make it a place where new businesses will want to develop."

Opponents say the big-box store would run counter to Chesterton's small-town feel and that chain businesses drive the money out of town to a corporate office rather than keeping dollars local. But Ennis disagrees.

"Smart growth is what is important," she said. "Right now people go outside of our town when they can't get what they need here. We want to keep our dollars local. I'm not for growth at any cost, but what I am for is smart growth."

The Town Council annexed the large parcel last year, besides annexing a large parcel known as Olson Farm to house 380-plus homes, and the council preannexed more than 80 acres south of Chesterton known as the Pope property at its last meeting.

Michigan City-based St. Anthony Memorial hospital has a contract to acquire a building on Indian Boundary Road that previously housed Jewel-Osco, which has been vacant for nearly seven years. The hospital plans to open a 24-hour emergency room facility at the site.

"There are some business opportunities right on the horizon for us," Ennis said. "Will it grow the size of our town? Yes. But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, because the people who are involved in these processes are individuals who have the best interests of the town in mind."

The rezoning recommendation now will go before the Town Council on Monday for final approval on the planned urban development, followed by a lengthy platting process with public input time.

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