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Feature Stories for Thursday, June 14, 2001

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
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Growth on mind of town officials

By Kathie Godfrey
Star Correspondent

LOWELL - Plans for water and sewer lines that will accommodate the town's growth on east Commercial Avenue were discussed Monday when the Town Council moved to quickly expedite development put on hold for more than a year by the state-imposed sewer ban.
    Town Council President Robert Hatch, R-3rd, Councilwoman Karen Brooker, R-2nd, and Building Administrator Bob Balczo said they had met with Terry Wirtz of Whiteco, Merrillville, who plans to seek mixed-use zoning to develop an 80-acre parcel of land east of Burr Street and south of Commercial Avenue with an equal portion of commercial and residential properties.
    Balczo said the proposed Whiteco development will include townhomes, duplexes and single-family homes as well as three or four "big lots" fronted with an 11-unit commercial development on State Road 2, but would not comment on the names of proposed commercial tenants.
    Brooker suggested a short-term solution to the problem could get the commercial portion of the project off the ground and proposed a sanitary sewer line to run east along Commercial Avenue from Walgreen's to George's Restaurant.          Councilman Larry Just, R-4th, added that water supply was also an issue and recommended that engineering include water service to the area. Balczo said any proposal would require the state's approval as well as the approval of the developer.
    The council authorized Commonwealth Engineering, Indianapolis, and Financial Solutions Group, Bloomington, to proceed with engineering and financing required to bring adequate sewer and water service to the proposed development.
    In other business, the council granted a conditional tax abatement to Saco Industries, after charging that the company had not substantially complied with its promise to hire 60 new employees this year.
    According to documents provided by Saco, Hatch said the company had only hired 21 new employees and added that with an average annual salary of only $15,700, Saco was not providing the kind of jobs needed by most local residents.
    "I'm not sure more $7 an hour jobs are what the community needs," he said.
Just asked that the abatement be tabled until Saco attorney Herman Barber could provide updated information on Saco employees.
    But when Barber said the firm's personal property tax filing deadline was approaching three days hence, the council agreed to grant the abatement if the company would present updated employee data at its June 25 meeting.


Planners say bar is being 'naughty'

By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer

CROWN POINT - After all agenda items were presented at the Plan Commission meeting on Monday, members sounded off on the recent developments in the issue of Naughty Grapes, a proposed bar and restaurant to be located at 513 Main St.
    "I went by Naughty Grapes and saw that he has totally disregarded the stipulations we set before him at the previous Plan Commission meetings," member Bob Rees said. "He has cut all of the grass out behind his building and has put a circular driveway in that we never approved. What is our possible recourse for this?"
    As the Naughty Grapes proposal has gone through the planning process the last few months, commission members have voted to require bar owner John Desmaretz to construct a right curb cut entering the premises and a paved asphalt parking lot with enough parking spaces to accommodate the seating arrangement inside the restaurant.
    "He told us when I was onsite three weeks ago that he would have an asphalt parking lot with curbs," City Engineer Jeff Ban said. "All that is there now is stoned gravel up to the property's fence."
    City ordinance requires all curbed lots to be at least two feet from the property line.
    Members of the board concurred that if the Naughty Grapes establishment does not comply with all city requirements, it will not get a certificate of occupancy and, therefore, will not legally be able to operate.
    "There is no way that anyone can approve a certificate of occupancy if the owners have not followed city ordinance regulations" commented commission member Robert Corbin. "He has been on razor's edge since this was proposed. It seems as if he does not care about any regulations or restrictions that our city enforces."
    To make situations even worse for commission members, Naughty Grapes has been described recently as a jazz club opening July 1.
    "I was looking through one of the newspapers and saw that they were advertising their restaurant as a jazz club that will open next month," explained commission member Donna Retson.
Recalling previous confusion as to what exactly Naughty Grapes is promoting as its business, members of the commission commented on their leniency with the petition over the previous months.

    "I really wanted this petition to go through because the property has been vacated for so many years," Corbin said. "I think we all have had a lot of patience with this proposal."
    With parking such an intricate issue, members of the commission have seen as recently as last week vehicles from the establishment parking in other business parking lots - something representatives of Naughty Grapes said would never happen.
    "I drove by White Hen and saw five or six cars parked in their parking lot that were working for Naughty Grapes," commented Rees.
    The City Council rejected Desmaretz's original petition for Naughty Grapes at its May 7 meeting on the grounds of increased traffic causing street congestion and the unlikely feasibility that the proposed off-street parking.
    Plan Commission Attorney Peter Manous stated that he would talk to the attorney of Naughty Grapes in hopes of resolving outstanding issues.
Rees ended the discussion by saying, "If we let the owners of Naughty Grapes continue to do whatever they want without any repercussions we might as well get rid of the Plan Commission altogether because our city ordinances and regulations will not have any effect on future petitioners. Realistically, if nothing is done I might as well just tear out all of my grass in front of my house and make more parking spaces for it."



For questions concerning the Star Newspaper or content on their articles, please contact
Star-Register Publications
112 West Clark Street
P.O. Box 419
Crown Point, IN 46307
(219) 663-4212

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