LaPorte City Hall

LaPorte City Hall

Tony V. Martin, The Times

LAPORTE — Plans for a new auto parts store have drawn both criticism and compliments for its expected impact on blight along a main artery into the city.

The City Council could vote Oct. 16 on a rezoning request by O'Reilly Auto Parts to build along the 200 block of East Lincolnway.

Members of the American Legion next door, though, say they are against it, feeling squeezed in by a structure that would sit right beside their club's property line and close enough to the road to obstruct their view of oncoming traffic.

Chuck Greenawalt, commander of the American Legion Post No. 83, asked the Council at a public hearing Monday to either vote against it now or wait to see if changes are made in the drawings "so it doesn't impact our Legion."

Five dilapidated homes along the four-lane highway would be demolished to make way for the development.

Councilman Tim Stabosz said the project could be the start of converting what was originally a residential stretch of highway into all commercial, but wants the auto parts store to be aesthetically pleasing.

Wayne Zeman, a past American Legion commander, said he prefers the houses be fixed up instead of replaced by "big block buildings with no soul."

Landlords said they want to sell their homes to the developer. They wouldn't be able to get more than the $400 a month in rent they collect now. Even if they fixed up the homes, they wouldn't be able to recover their costs, they said.

"They're not going to look prettier than they are right now," said Ray Miller, who lives in that neighborhood.

Councilman Miles Fettinger said allowing the auto parts store to go up would start the process of redeveloping that side of the city.

"If we don't change, we can't grow," Fettinger said.

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