posttrib
SUITABLE 
Weather Updates

Washington Township rezoning packs City Hall

Updated: December 15, 2012 6:23AM



VALPARAISO — More than 200 people packed City Hall on Tuesday to protest the possible rezoning of almost 118 acres of single-family residential land in Washington Township.

The crowd spilled out of council chambers and out the doors of City Hall with one resident stating he counted 248 people.

Many opposed the planned 512-unit luxury apartment complex and business park that SJBZ Development wants to put on a T-shaped parcel off Evans Avenue, between Indiana 49 and Bartz Road, extending to about where NIPSCO wires cross overhead.

The Valparaiso Plan Commission will meet in a special meeting next Tuesday to decide whether to recommend the rezoning to the City Council.

SJBZ, a subsidiary of the Wise Way grocery store chain, wants the land zoned from general residential to urban residential on the southern 72 acres and to business park on the 46 acres that form the top of the “T.”

Todd Leeth, attorney for the developers, said the project would bring in the business-ready land that city officials have said Valparaiso needs.

“Eastporte Centre is nearing capacity,” said Leeth, who works with that business park.

Representatives for the planned development focused on the high-end apartments that SJBZ plans to build with rents ranging from $962 to $1,400 a month.

Don Weiss, president of Wise Way and SJBZ, said it will resemble Prairie Point Apartments in southern Lake County and the average yearly income would be $77,000 per household.

Weiss said it’s not “affordable housing.”

Residents did not voice concerns about the pricing but about the change of the neighborhood.

“The vast majority of them thought they were buying into R-1,” the former zoning for single-family residential, attorney Lily Schaefer said.

“You will be changing the entire character of the zoning area and the neighborhoods,” she said

Schaefer represented 114 homeowners in Pine Creek Estates, which is between Indiana 49 and the 118 acres, as well as others in the area.

She also voiced concerns about the city being able to handle the new density with police, utilities and parks.

Rod Gardin, superintendent of East Porter Schools, spoke about concerns of overcrowding in Washington Township Schools, which is at capacity now.

Others also were concerned about retaining the rural feel of the area.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.