Home-based Porter County spa will have to move within a year
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent February 24, 2013 5:54PM
Updated: February 25, 2013 9:37AM
VALPARAISO — The owners of Serendipity Province got one more year to run their massage therapy business in a residential area from the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals, but in the meantime, they must find a more suitable location.
Laura and Denis Ott first got a variance for the spa, located at 293 N. County Road 250W, in 2002, with an understanding with the board at the time that the variance was temporary.
But the Otts have gotten five renewals since then, some for a year, one for five years, and when they came before the board for another five-year renewal on Wednesday, board members said they’d had enough.
Citing traffic concerns along 250W, which is hilly and now includes Cherry Hill subdivision, and the growth of the spa’s customer base, board members said they would grant the renewal for another year, but will not grant it again.
“We’re here to address the zoning. The zoning is residential. We’ve given you 11 years to find another place,” said board member Tim Cole, adding the business is not appropriate for a residential area and he’s at his wit’s end with the matter. “Temporary means it has to come to an end.”
Laura Ott said her business has waxed and waned with the economy, though it now appears to be back on the upswing. She provides massage therapy seven days and six evenings a week with three employees.
She has looked for other locations, but the places she’s found have high rents and need extensive renovation, which the business cannot afford. Raising rates for her customers is not an option.
“I have a lot of cancer and elderly patients and there’s no way they could handle that. If I could find a place, I would be there in a heartbeat,” she said, adding the retreat feel of her business is not a good fit for a strip mall.
Board member Marvin Brickner was particularly concerned about traffic along 250W, though Laura Ott said it hasn’t been a problem.
“We were hoping tonight you’d come here and say you found another spot,” Brickner said.
While Brickner initially made a motion to deny the Otts’ renewal outright, member Rick Burns suggested giving them another year, with the understanding it would be their last.
“For them to walk out and close is harsh. Let’s give them a year, enough time to find a new location,” he said.