Crowd jams hearing on proposed luxury apartment project

2012-11-13T21:30:00Z 2012-11-13T21:44:35Z Crowd jams hearing on proposed luxury apartment projectPhil Wieland, (219) 548-4352
November 13, 2012 9:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | More than 200 people filled the council chambers and the hallway Tuesday night as residents of Pine Creek subdivision and nearby homes turned out at the plan commission meeting in protest of rezoning for a proposed business park and 512-unit luxury apartment complex on Evans Avenue.

A sign stating "No rezone near our dream home" expressed the overwhelming view of the crowd. Principal developer Don Weiss said the apartments probably would be built over a five-year period with rents ranging from $960 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,600 for a unit with two master bedrooms. Apartment buildings probably would have two and three stories with 14 to 18 units per building, he said.

Lawyer Todd Leeth, speaking for the developers, said a marketing analysis showed a need for up to 345 new luxury apartments a year in the area, with the demand coming from those who work for the Porter Regional Hospital or Valparaiso University and related businesses. Weiss said income levels of tenants would provide $38.5 million in annual purchasing power.

Lawyer Lily Schaefer spoke representing many of the residents and said they were concerned about the magnitude of the proposed development and the impacts it could have on East Porter County Schools, traffic, city services and local businesses. She said the urban residential zoning being sought was "not what these people want."

"We are all supposed to take a leap of faith that all will turn out hunky dory," Schaefer said. "It's not the identity of the petitioner that is of concern, but things don't always turn out the way they are planned. Many don't come to fruition, and there's no guarantee that, once it's built, it will still be the same property owner."

A resident with a carpet cleaning business said he rarely gets a call from an apartment dweller, despite the fact 45 percent of the city's total housing stock is apartments. He said many other businesses have the same problem, and the addition of 512 units would increase the balance to about 50 percent apartments.

East Porter County Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin said the impact on the Washington Township schools would have a ripple effect on the other schools in the district. The school's demographic consultant estimated the apartments would add between 77 and 102 students, but Gardin said the high school and the elementary school have no available classrooms and it takes three years to add them.

The plan commission might have a special meeting later this month to vote on a recommendation to the council. The project needs rezoning of 118 acres from general residential to business park and urban residential uses. The business park is proposed for the north 46 acres of the site.

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