Anger greets rezoning support for Valpo apartment, business plan

2012-11-20T20:45:00Z 2012-11-21T09:32:04Z Anger greets rezoning support for Valpo apartment, business planPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com
November 20, 2012 8:45 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Amid shouts, accusations and sobs of frustration, plans for a luxury apartment and business park development on the north side of Evans Avenue east of Ind. 49 moved on to the Valparaiso City Council for final consideration.

The city Plan Commission voted 6-0 Tuesday to recommend approval of the requested rezoning of the 118-acre site from general residential after hearing a revised proposal from developer Don Weiss, owner of the WiseWay food chain. The plans calls for 72 acres to be zoned urban residential for the apartments and 46 acres at the north end to be business park zoning.

More than 150 residents and East Porter Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin attended the meeting. They opposed construction of the apartments in the midst of single-family homes on both sides and what they saw would be a loss in their own property values and an influx of students the schools could not handle.

Even the announcement the plan was revised since a Nov. 13 public hearing to reduce the number of apartments from 512 to 408 and other adjustments to lessen the visual impact did not ease concerns. Some accused the city of taking payoffs and one angry resident threatened "WiseWay is going down."

City Administrator Bill Oeding said the $50 million project will bring more than $30 million in income from residents into the city each year along with creating jobs and producing tax money to support city services and the East Porter County Schools.

"All of Valparaiso will benefit, and all of Washington Township will benefit," Oeding said to protests from the crowd made up mostly of Washington Township residents.

The right of way for the north/south road planned along the western edge of the development next to the Pine Creek subdivision will be at least 60 feet from the property line and include a 5-foot-high, landscaped berm. All the standalone three-story apartment buildings were eliminated although some remaining in the plan will have a combination of two and three stories.

Weiss said, "This will be an expensive, first-class development. There will be no tax increment financing or abatements for the residences, providing revenue for the city and the schools."

City Engineering Director Tim Burkman said the impact of apartments on traffic will be less than if it were developed with single-family homes, and the open space requirements are higher for apartments than for single-family homes. The sewer impact will be about the same, and the city will receive $870,000 from connection fees.

In his motion to recommend approval of the rezoning, Burkman said it should lead to the creation of a planned unit development zoning amendment to the city's unified development ordinance.

The rezoning will be introduced at Monday's council meeting, and the council is expected to hear public comments then as well as when it comes up for approval at the Dec. 10 meeting. Weiss has asked for the expedited action to meet a deadline to close on the purchase of the land by the end of the year.

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