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Merrillville planners OK aquatics center, storage facility

Updated: January 20, 2013 6:21AM



MERRILLVILLE — A proposed aquatics and fitness center and storage facility planned for the former Saturn dealership on U.S. 30 moved another step forward on Tuesday.

The Plan Commission unanimously approved a resubdivision of almost 2 acres behind the dealership building at 1794 W. 81st Ave., where the storage facility consisting of pods will be built. A planned unit development of the same parcel also received unanimous approval, but with several conditions.

The conditions include: no outstanding storage allowed; the storage pod units won’t encroach on the front lot, which will house the aquatics and fitness center; the chain link fence will be erected on the back lot; two pod units will be removed to allow for fire trucks to get through; all planting and landscaping must be approved by the landscape committee; and the property needs to be bordered by evergreen trees large enough to block the storage units.

A variance allowing a PUD for a property on 1.74 acres, when PUD’s are usually for 2 acres and more, also was included. In addition, the easement for the back lot must be maintained by the owner of the front lot.

Merrillville attorney Richard Anderson, representing petitioner Douglas Gossage, also assured the commission that the two businesses would be tied together. Some commissioners had expressed concern that should the aquatics center fail, the town would be left with just the storage facility.

“You can’t tie the front (business) to the back in a PUD because (the front) is not part of it. But the two businesses will be tied together; one is not possible without the other. The bank won’t allow it,” Anderson said.

The aquatics center was already approved by the town council.

Commission member Brian Dering said if Gossage plans to match the outside of the building with the surrounding area — as he did with his castle motif on his Dyer business, Goose’s Scuba — he would like to see it Pirates-themed, after the school mascot.

But commission attorney William Touchette said Gossage has indicated he will keep the exterior plain.

At a previous meeting, Gossage said the aquatics center portion of the project would include an in-ground pool with a 14-foot diving well for scuba diving and swimming classes, as well as physical therapy. 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 existing 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. The hours would be 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

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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