Valpo council vote set Monday on disputed apartment project
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent December 16, 2012 11:26PM
Tony Hreha with his wife Carrie and daughter Aubrey outside their Valparaiso home Friday Dec. 14, 2012. The couple have joined other neighbors to speak out against proposed zoning changes that would allow a business park and apartments to be built near their subdivision. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 18, 2013 6:14AM
VALPARAISO — A showdown is expected Monday between homeowners and a developer who wants to build a $50 million luxury apartment/business park project next to their subdivision in Washington Township.
The City Council will vote on a rezoning measure allowing the “urban residential” zoning at its 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall.
Residents of the Pine Creek Subdivision packed meetings last month, voicing opposition to the apartments because they’re concerned about the effect on their neighborhood and schools. Children who live in the apartments would attend the East Porter County School Corp. schools.
Developer Don Weiss is seeking the rezone of 118 acres. The apartments would span 72 acres, while a business park would be developed on the remaining 46 acres off Evans Avenue on the east side of Indiana 49 on land annexed by the city in recent years. While the city annexed the land, the school district boundaries remain in East Porter.
Weiss has said the project won’t be part of a tax increment financing district and he won’t seek a tax abatement.
Pine Creek Subdivision resident Tony Hreha, a leader of the rezoning opposition, said residents aren’t trying to stop growth, but are concerned about the changes the development will bring to their neighborhood.
Before Hreha’s family moved into their Pine Creek home seven years ago, he said they made sure the surrounding area was zoned for single-family homes. They wanted a neighborhood with kids playing outside because “that’s the kind of a place we wanted to move into,” he said.
If Monday’s rezoning is approved, their home would instead have a business park on the north side and a 408-unit apartment complex behind it.
East Porter County School Corp. Superintendent Rod Gardin voiced concerns at the rezoning meetings that too much growth would impact Washington Township schools where classrooms are already at or near capacity.
Weiss, president of SJBZ Development, declined to comment, he’s said at meetings that the upscale apartments would be geared toward households averaging $77,000 in income.
Weiss said marketing shows a growing need for the apartments with the nearby Porter Regional Hospital and other growth.
Others in the development team said that apartments would likely have fewer children for schools and the complex would be built over about five years.
Attorney Lily Schaefer, who represents 114 homeowners in the area, questioned the need for more apartments, citing statistics that 45 percent of Valparaiso’s housing is rental properties and a 7 percent vacancy rate for those.