Chesterton grows smart, keeps charm

2012-11-25T00:00:00Z 2013-01-28T09:00:03Z Chesterton grows smart, keeps charmBernie Doyle Chesterton Town Manager nwitimes.com
November 25, 2012 12:00 am  • 

When I tell people Chesterton has an economic development philosophy of smart growth, they ask me what smart growth means. Smart growth means we don’t rush into building the town or bringing in a development without really looking it over.

Through careful planning, Chesterton has been able to realize a 24 percent increase in population over the last decade, while other communities have either seen a small amount of growth or a loss of population. This is a true indication of the interest people have in doing business in Chesterton and calling Chesterton home, and here are a few reasons why.

First, Chesterton is laying the infrastructure to attract select businesses to not only the town, but also the entire region. The Oct. 10 groundbreaking of the 49 Corridor Utility Project is a joint town and county project that will extend utilities to the town’s southern limit along Ind. 49. We are already seeing interest in this area, which ties into our smart growth philosophy of selective expansion.

We’re in a position where we can be particular about what develops in Chesterton. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for our community and the entire region. Many communities can’t do it on their own anymore. It’s all about working together through economic development.

Second, Chesterton continues to see a rediscovery of our historic downtown. Chesterton’s European Market is unique from all other markets in the area and is an attraction for visitors and locals. Our festivals are also desirable for visitors and bring more people into our downtown. We’re hoping to see more building owners improve their facades to make the downtown even more attractive to small business, while still keeping the charm.

Third, Chesterton’s medical sector, one that was already established with specialty services, has seen a boom in just the last year alone. The town is ready to welcome a state-of-the-art advanced-care nursing facility. Addison Pointe, which recently celebrated their ribbon cutting, will employ close to 140 professional and semi-professional positions with an emphasis on local hire.

Franciscan Alliance’s investment in Chesterton with their $22 million emergency services facility shows the town is realizing their smart growth efforts as it has created 70 to 75 full-time employment opportunities. The new Porter Regional Hospital just down the road gives Chesterton residents even more specialized choices. Very few communities the size of Chesterton have such quality medical treatment services available that were not present a year ago.

Fourth, Chesterton’s school system is second to none. What is the true measure of a good school system? It is more than a grade determined by test scores. It’s how classes are taught, how teachers interact with students, and how parents aid in that process.

Students in the Duneland School system are supported in all of their educational endeavors, be it football or basketball, speech and debate, the swim team, or marching band. This stellar education is an indication of the quality of our education, and the public supports the Duneland school system.

Finally, it’s the people who really make the difference. Our town departments are headed up by the best in their field, bar none. Their staffs make it their passion to take care of their town and its residents, business, and visitors. As a result, we have a very proactive police force and low crime with a policy of focusing on hot spots and prevention. Our fire department is also very well trained and proactive. The street department does a fine job of planning for each year’s needs while being constantly adaptable to changing weather and budget constraints.

All of our departments are “dedicated to making a difference," the new town mission statement. They truly care about the residents in this community; they are residents themselves.

We also have a strong focus on volunteerism in our community, which is another litmus test for the health of a community. We have consistent support for our youths during and after school with sporting groups, the Duneland Family YMCA and Porter County Boys and Girls Club, Scouting and other youth programs.

Through smart growth, Chesterton has been able to offer an unparalleled quality of life. Chesterton’s affordable housing options and proximity to superlative Duneland natural surroundings only add to its appeal. Chesterton’s infrastructure, medical sector, charming downtown, excellent schools and its caring people make Chesterton a great place to call home.

Bernie Doyle is Chesterton town manager. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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