Gary council OKs Black Oak rezoning
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent July 3, 2012 8:36PM
Updated: August 5, 2012 6:45AM
GARY — The contentious Black Oak rezoning issue was laid to rest Tuesday night with a 7-1 vote in favor of it; at-large Councilman Ron Brewer dissented.
Zoning Administrator Joe Van Dyk reminded the Common Council that those owning a business in the 160-acre, 95-residence area bounded by Ridge Road, and Durbin and Calhoun streets and affected by the R-2 rezone, would be grandfathered in, while others would be required to get a special-use variance to run their business. Van Dyk also said that of the 95 addresses affected, only two businesses have filed for business licenses since the city started the process two months ago.
David Fraker, who owns a wood-cutting business on Burr Street, said the neighborhood has been neglected for so long, it’s suspicious that the administration has an interest in it now. He’s noticed that people are also getting ticketed for various infractions.
“Did anyone ask the public if they wanted the change? I doubt it,” Fraker said. “There are very few people who are for the down-zone — I think six — but we have 244 people who’ve signed the petition against it.
“We have been ignored, now you want to take our tax money for frivolous tickets.”
Council President Kyle Allen Sr. agreed that Black Oak has been long-neglected, but if a resident is using their house as place of employ, they should have a business license and get a special-use variance, where their neighbors can decide whether they want the business next to them.
Indeed, at one point, Black Oak residents didn’t want a truck-washing business because of potential health hazards, added Councilman Roy Pratt, D-At-Large.
“I believe residents should have a say in what they want where they live. I also believe that the law is the most important thing, and you can’t change it with the wind,” he said.
Bonnie Boerema said she has been trying to purchase land in the neighborhood — to no avail because of the light manufacturing designation. She burst into tears when the vote was read.
“We’re just trying to live the American dream like they got,” Boerema said. “We’re not trying to hurt anyone; we just want some consideration, is all.”
Dan Warner, of Gary, said he wondered how many people in Black Oak would now put their houses up for sale with the zone change.
In other business, the council voted 8-0 to pass a towing ordinance that changes the fees to $125 per tow and adds a $50 release fee from the Police Department, with $40 of the towing fee coming back to the department. It also approved a gun-buyback program, paying out $50 gift cards for handguns, $75 gift cards for rifles or shotguns and $100 gift cards for assault rifles.
The council will also consider a resolution to call upon Congress to reduce spending and remove troops from Afghanistan.