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ST. JOHN —The St. John Plan Commission has given a new subdivision the green light to move forward.

Castle Rock would be located just west of Kilkenny Estates and next to the Edgewood subdivision in the northwest corner of town off Calumet Avenue. The 67 lots are zoned and will be built as R2 single-family homes. 

Plans include connecting the south end of the new subdivision to the existing street stub of Calumet Avenue where that road currently ends. There will also be connections to two existing street stubs in Kilkenny.

More than a dozen residents who live nearby spoke out against the subdivision, citing, among other things, traffic and too much development in the town.

Jeff Neely said he's concerned about safety and the well-being of Edgewood as well as the loss of property values. 

Kevin Connolly lives in Kilkenny right next door to one of the new Castle Rock lots. He said the new subdivision's layout will cause more traffic to drive past his house and other houses in the neighborhood where there are many young children. 

Connolly also said he originally brought his lot in part because the town promised a park next door. Other residents echoed Connolly, saying they were under the impression a park was to be built in an area where the new subdivision is located. 

Plan Commission President Michael Forbes said they cannot require a developer to donate park property because it is against state law. Any plans for individual park property changed when the developer brought in his plans for the subdivision.

"There was no inclusion of park property in this plan," he said. "We can't turn around and say we're not going to approve this because you don't have a park. It would be illegal. We just can't do that." 

Forbes said that's why the town has a park impact fee.

"Every developer, every lot that's sold pays into the development fee," he said. "That fee goes into the park fund. The purpose of park impact fee is to take care of all the parks within the town." 

The developer, Andy James, said he never saw the area plotted as a park. But when it became an issue, he offered at a previous meeting a plan to include a parking area in front of the Kilkenny water tower so people would have easier access to the park to the south.

Another issue was connectivity to surrounding roads. Although it has no part of the current development, the topic was discussed during a recent study session on the subdivision. The question was whether Columbia Street would ever connect to Declan Court, which leads into the Kilkenny subdivision. Columbia Street is just south of 81st and 81st dead ends into an unincorporated area. There's about 15 or 20 feet of woodland between the two roads.

Lake County Commissioner Jerry Tippy spoke during the public comment period and said Columbia is primarily owned by residents who live on that street and it is not a dedicated public road.

"It is not in the county inventory," he said. "We have no jurisdiction over that road. We have no intention of condemning property. We have no intention of anything with that road."

Tippy said it's the same issue with Calumet Avenue south of 81st, where there was also a concern by residents that it would connect to Calumet Avenue to the south in St. John.

Before getting approval for the primary plat for Castle Rock, James said he's sacrificed the number of lots in the area to maintain a natural look.

"I've done everything I could to make sure that this property gets developed in a way that is consistent with the values and quality of life that St. John brings to so many people," he said. 

The vote to approve the primary plat was 5-0, with John Kennedy abstaining and Steve Kozel, who had to leave early, absent. 

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Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.