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Tim Stabosz

Tim Stabosz

I draw your attention to a special City Council meeting at 4 p.m. today at City Hall. The City Council, in what I believe to be a misguided effort to bring new upscale residential investment at all costs, is at risk of abandoning long-established principles of waterfront view protection to provide the developer of a proposed townhouse project along Fish Trap Lake with special treatment that is unwarranted, unjustified and will set a terrible precedent that puts all of our lakes in danger.

Specifically, the developer, Legacy Hills Development LLC, has asked the city to annex roughly 525 feet of lake frontage on Fish Trap Lake so it can cram as many units as possible onto the land parcel (maximizing profit), regardless of the public's right to have its views of our waterfront reasonably protected.

The architect for the proposed project is the same one who brought us the infamous Outlook Cove structure on Pine Lake Avenue, which did unspeakable damage to the unique character of LaPorte by placing a cold, brutal and over-scaled structure, with virtually no windows, facing Pine Lake Avenue, looming over the citizenry and permanently blocking the view of Pine Lake at LaPorte's very front door. We must not allow this to happen again.

It is ironic that the City Council, a decade or so ago, passed a law creating waterfront view protection for Pine, Stone, Lower, Hennessy, Clear, Crane and Walker lakes, directly in response to the destruction of LaPorte's unique and special character that was wrought by Outlook Cove (and an adjoining development), and to prevent the public good from being sacrificed for the almighty dollar ever again. And yet, 10 years later, the same developer seeks to exploit a loophole in our zoning ordinance. Now it is up to the City Council to take a stand on behalf of the people.

LaPorte desperately needs, and I fully welcome, upscale residential development, especially of a kind we don't have. And it doesn't have to be of a style that I personally like, either. But when, at the last council meeting, the developer of the proposed project disrespects the authority of the council and refuses to answer even general questions about the nature of the project, trust is shattered. Then, when the developer walks out of the meeting after the council, in a 4-2 vote, amended the annexation ordinance to apply waterfront protection to the project, one has to wonder exactly what provisions of waterfront protection the developer objects to.

Perhaps public attendance at today's meeting will extract the information so certain City Council people can do their job in seeking to oversee and protect the public interest.

It is particularly sad that some of my colleagues on the council are prepared to reverse their vote, to free the developer from the requirement that they follow waterfront view protection. This would set a dangerous precedent that it is open season on LaPorte's lakes.

Does LaPorte want to use the value of its lakes and parks to attract the upscale residential investment we want, while being careful to not sacrifice the public good in doing so? Are LaPorte's lakes up for sale to the highest bidder? If a structure that blocks public view of the lake is put up on Fish Trap Lake, as the first multifamily development ever on that lake, what is to stop the next developer from seeking the same special deal? With Fish Trap Lake being idyllic and pristine, might it not be in the city's long term interest to make sure the scale and style of this proposed development are more in keeping with the established character of the area?

I am a very open-minded person. But when a developer treats the council as something to be ignored, dismissed or demeaned, that raises my hackles.

My message to all lakefront developers in LaPorte is simple: Be a part of the lake you are building on. Integrate your development with the lake. Don't have the back of your building face the populace of LaPorte. That is wrong, and that costs us all in the long run. 

Timothy Stabosz, R-At-Large, is a member of the LaPorte City Council. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.