Neighbors not overjoyed with new Valparaiso subdivision plan
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent August 20, 2014 4:04PM
Pine Creek Road in Pine Creek Estates subdivision dead ends on the north, looking over where a detention pond will go between existing homes and a business park complex. | James D. Wolf Jr.~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 22, 2014 11:00AM
VALPARAISO — City officials touted last week’s groundbreaking for The Lakes of Valparaiso as good for the future, but neighbors think otherwise.
SBJZ Holdings made concessions because they presented plans in 2011 for the luxury apartments and business park, but many residents feel the rezoning of the 146.3 acres from single-family changed the area they moved into.
When the process began at the Planning Commission and City Council, about 250 residents overflowed council chambers and spilled out City Hall’s doors.
“They listened to us and went in a completely different direction,” said Jonathan Bull, a resident of Pine Creek Estates between Indiana 49 and Lakes of Valparaiso.
Larry Hays, also of Pine Creek, said, “I don’t think residents had any say in this whatsoever.”
He doesn’t like that at the groundbreaking Mayor Jon Costas said Don Weiss, the principal of SBJZ Holdings, has been his friend since they were kids in Gary.
Many of the neighbors posted “Costas cost us” lawn signs, Hays said.
Karen Molnar, who moved to the area in 2005, said a business park and apartments would have impact.
“I grew up like that (in Gary). That’s why I was so against it,” she said. “I was looking for something better for my kids.”
The southern 55.5 acres of Lakes of Valparaiso will have of luxury apartments off Evans Avenue, and the business park off Vale Park Road will have 71.74 buildable acres in the commercial park.
In January, SJBZ attorney Todd Leeth said among concessions were that Pine Creek and Nick roads wouldn’t connect to Lakes, so its traffic wouldn’t enter Pine Creek.
The southern 55 acres of business park had gone from 37 to 29 lots to preserve older trees, and the 10-25 foot buffer with five-foot high dirt berms that would likely kill trees, so SJBZ would have a 40 foot wide buffer and fill gaps in the existing tree line.
“It’ll be interesting to see if they fill them all,” Hays said about the 408 planned apartments, citing neighbors’ research that Valparaiso is approaching 50 percent rentals.
Residents also said traffic concerns were not addressed.
The major streets need widening, and there are no sidewalks along the roads, said Bull, who has a daughter.
Although Lakes doesn’t connect to Pine Creek, kids are still out playing, he said.
He and Molnar said that when a train goes on the Canadian Railroad tracks, traffic will back up to Vale Park Road, and getting to the shopping centers about a mile away can take more than 10 minutes.
“The roads are just not built for it,” Bull said.
Sheila Johnsen, who moved into Pine Creek in July 2013 after her Realtor said the surrounding land was agricultural and had development plans, said she’s already being woken by workers and that the land value decreased on her property tax bill.
Johnsen and Molnar said people have been moving, and other homes have “for sale” signs.
Tony Hreha, who held neighborhood meetings about the rezoning in his home, declined to comment on why he moved.