VALPARAISO — A planned west-side housing development would solve longstanding flooding woes and help traffic flow in a vital part of the city, proponents of the plan told the Valparaiso City Council this week.
Developers and key members of the mayor's administration made this case during a public meeting Monday as they presented plans for the rezoning of 200 acres of former farmland south of Ransom Road and northwest of Valparaiso High School.
The proposed development, known as The Brooks at Vale Park, is slated to be zoned as a planned unit development instead of a typical housing development. The PUD designation would allow more flexibility in the type of homes to be built there.
The plan calls for a longtime Valparaiso developer, Jake Wagner and VJW Limited LLC, to construct 287 new structures, including small and large single-family homes, townhomes and triplexes.
The development is planned to cost $9.7 million, with the city providing $6.8 million toward stormwater infrastructure through a bond sale.
Retention ponds added to the development would help slow water flow that has caused flooding in other existing residential areas downstream of Beauty Creek, Mayor John Costas and other supporters of the plan told The Times earlier this week.
Vale Park road also would be extended through the property, running along the current walking trail. So the plan would provide another east-west route in that area of the city, speeding response times for emergency vehicles in the area and providing a needed new transportation route to the high school, supporters of the measure said.
A series of paths and trails would run near the planned homes, as well more than 50 acres of green areas, smaller detention ponds, a small lake and even a wetland.
City Engineer Adam McAlpine said that flash floods in 2008 showed how serious the situation was near the area. After more stormwater issues in 2014, the city had to reassess how it would deal with the challenges, he said.
With the rate of development in the city, stormwater drainage has rapidly increased into Beauty Creek, accelerating erosion.
Flow rates of the creek have at times been so fast, trees started to become uprooted and fall over and even caused a bridge on Harrison Boulevard to collapse, McAlpine noted.
You have free articles remaining.
“We had to demolish and replace it, and it really made us ask the question, how can we manage those flow rates in Beauty Creek?” he said.
Per the recommendation of experts, the city wanted to build a series of detention ponds north of the creek for years. The site of the proposed development was a prime candidate.
Valparaiso city officials concluded working with a developer would be a cheaper option in the long run, as many of the costs could be shared between the city and developer.
Valparaiso Economic Development Director Patrick Lyp said an engineering firm calculated that if the city bought the land and tried to tackle the stormwater project alone, it would have cost taxpayers more than $13.4 million.
“For example, there naturally would be tons of dirt and soil moved out to build the detention ponds,” he said.
The displaced soil can be used by the developer rather than generating dirt-removal costs that would have fallen on the city, Lyp said.
City officials don't think the road extension will drastically increase traffic, as it will be a mostly residential area.
Costas said he feels it may actually be a boon for the city emergency personnel and first responders.
“Currently if you live on the other side of Vale Park and you have a heart attack, that ambulance has to go around to Ransom or head south,” he said. “We know just two minutes make a difference, and that could save someone's life.”
Some residents at Monday's public meeting were concerned about potential pollution or traffic increases during and after construction.
The ordinance approving the rezoning needed for the development to move forward will be up for discussion at two more city council meetings before the council can put it up for a final vote.