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Merrillville planners like idea of aquatics center, storage

Updated: January 6, 2013 9:53AM



MERRILLVILLE — A proposal to divide the former Saturn dealership property on U.S. 30 into an aquatics and fitness center at the front and storage facility on the back two acres received favorable input Tuesday from the plan commission during its workshop session.

The commission will vote on requests to resubdivide the property at 1794 W. 81st Ave. and for a planned unit development at its next meeting, on Dec. 18.

Merrillville attorney Richard Anderson, representing petitioner Douglas Gossage, told commission members the back area already is completely paved and would be screened by arborvitae trees. He said the storage units would be pods, not free-standing buildings.

Commission attorney William Touchette pointed out there were a few concerns aired at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting last month that should be addressed, including whether there would be outdoor vehicle storage and whether the storage unit portion would remain open if the aquatics center would fail.

“We talked about the fact that you probably wouldn’t get the OK if it was just for the storage facility,” Touchette said, adding the BZA wanted to tie the two together.

Anderson said they would comply with the town’s wishes not to store vehicles outside, but said there could be an issue with having to close the storage portion if the aquatics center fails.

“If you’re talking about having ownership of both, that’s fine,. bit if you’re talking about an economic issue, that’s not part of zoning,” Anderson said.

Anderson added Gossage only has the right to have storage in the rear of the lot.

Gossage has said he needs the storage units in order for the project to be economically feasible.

Commission member Brian Dering said he’s impressed with Gossage’s similar business, Goose’s Scuba in Dyer, near the Castlewood subdivision.

“He’s done a fantastic job with the facade, matching Castlewood. I’d like to see something similar and not just the same old storage facade,” Dering asked.

Anderson said he would bring photos of the proposed facade at the next meeting.

The aquatics center portion of the project would include an in-ground pool with a 14-foot dividing well for scuba diving and swimming classes, as well as physical therapy purposes. A fitness/cardio area with exercise equipment and fitness classes for kids through seniors, as well as a retail store, would also be located in the current 17,800-square-foot building.

The storage units would be accessed by a key code and people would only be able to enter the storage area during regular business hours, Gossage has said.

Gossage has said he hopes to open the new business in the spring. He said he would hire about 30 new employees.



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