Indiana Dunes

A proposed campground near Indiana Dunes National Park was denied.

A sometimes-tense meeting with an audience frustrated by a board that wouldn’t reopen a public hearing ended in applause when the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-1 against a proposed “RV resort” that would abut Indiana Dunes National Park, according to the Chicago-Tribune.

Board members cited concerns about traffic for the campground, intended to host campers for up to 30 days, along with questions during the April 21 meeting about how cramped the park would be even after Trevin Fowler, managing director for Third Coast Cottages LLC, scaled plans back from 44 campsites to 40.

The five-acre property is located at Kemil Road and U.S. 20 in Pines Township. The board held a public hearing on the proposal for an RV resort in a district zoned for high-intensity commercial development at its March meeting, which came last on an already lengthy agenda.

A board vote was first up on a much shorter agenda this time around and about 20 people attended the meeting hoping to speak even when officials told them there would not be another public hearing and the board subsequently did not vote to open the meeting up for comments.

The proposal, which Fowler said was meant to fill a regional need for an RV campground that would offer amenities not available at campsites in the nearby state and national parks, would have included a swimming pool that also was open to the public, along with a camp store, laundry, showers and restrooms and a playground, as well as a central fire pit.

Noting “a considerable amount of discomfort” with the public and at least one BZA member at the last meeting about the traffic, Fowler presented information on collisions on U.S. 20 in the vicinity and said that between 2015 and 2021, there had been seven collisions and no deaths, and five of those were related to animals in the road. He said there was a fatality in June 2010.

“We’re sensitive to this plight but accidents can and do occur at all intersections,” Fowler said, adding he would work with highway officials for a light at Kemil Road and U.S. 20, and the entrance to the campground would be from Kemil Road, as far north as it could be from the highway.

Later in the meeting, audience members noted recent traffic accidents, including a fatality, that weren’t included in Fowler’s count.

“Guys, guys, we’ve all heard the concerns. The board has concerns,” said board member Brian Damitz.

Board members veered briefly into a discussion of whether the playground was too small but Damitz said the bigger issue was the traffic concerns.

“Is the reduction of lots going to decrease the safety implications, because that’s really what’s important,” he said.

After board president Debbie Kerr-Cook made a motion to deny the request that died for a lack of a second, Fowler pleaded with the BZA to make a decision that night, regardless of what it was, so he and the community could move forward.

Damitz made another motion to deny, which was seconded by Kerr-Cook.

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