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Walden Clearing lot layout

A new community called Walden Clearing is proposed for Cline and 93rd avenues in St. John. The original plan called for 112 lots but it has since been reduced to 90. 

ST. JOHN — It's up to the Town Council to decide on a rezone for a proposed new community.

Walden Clearing would consist of 90 home sites on about 80 acres along the north and south side of 93rd Avenue just west of Cline Avenue.

The Plan Commission in a 4-2 vote at its recent meeting passed along a favorable recommendation to the council for the residential rezone.

The existing zoning is open space — zoned that way after the land was annexed to St. John. Joe Lenehan, of local builder Olthof Homes, who presented the plan, said the town's comprehensive plan does show future residential zoning for this property.

Lenehan is seeking R-2 residential zoning for single-family homes, which calls for minimum lot sizes that are smaller than allowed in R-1.

Initial plans for the subdivision called for 112 lots, but Lenehan said it's been reduced to 90. He said the density remains low, and in addition to more than 25 acres of open space there would be three parks, trails and landscape buffers along Cline, 93rd and the existing development on the west side.

Olthof would be building its Inspire series of homes on the north side of 93rd while a custom home builder would build the homes on the south side of the street.

Board member Paul Panczuk, who voted against the rezone, talked about the decline of R-1 housing in St. John. He said going forward he would like for developers to "bring us a mix" of R-1 and R-2 housing.

He told Lenehan that the south side of 93rd, according to the plan, is already close to being R-1.

"I really think this south end needs to be R-1 to fit the spirit of our comprehensive plan and keep the balance in place for the adjoining homeowners there and also future development to the south," he said.

"I don't see a huge loss of lots on the south end to accomplish that, and I think you would be doing the right thing for the adjacent homeowners."

While some of the lots on the south portion do meet R-1, Panczuk said his fear is that if R-2 is approved the proposal could come back with a different site plan entirely for that portion with different sized lots.

"And you have the zoning and we have no leverage at that point," he said.

Lenehan said he has no intent on changing the plan, provided everything that happens with engineering goes well.

"We would like to move forward with it the way it is," he said. "We feel like we have a really good plan here that we think would really be a great community to have here in town."

Robert Birlson joined Panczuk in voting against a favorable recommendation for the rezone.

Voting in favor of the rezone were Michael Forbes, Greg Volk, Steve Flores and Steven Kozel. Board member John Kennedy was absent.

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Lake County reporter

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.