By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer
CEDAR LAKE - More than a year after the auction of
the old Salesian property on Cline Avenue, owner Damir Missbrenner has
presented to the Plan Commission his plan to transform the old school
into a retirement village.
Originally auctioned for $340,000 on Jan. 14,
2000, to Sergio Urquiza, Missbrenner, who thought his high bid had been
snubbed at the auction, recently purchased the property from Urquiza and
is in the developmental stages of constructing the Golden Age Retirement
"This 36 1/2 acre site will be a
retirement home that will provide assisted living for its
occupants," Missbrenner told the commission at its May 2 workshop.
"These homes will be owned or leased exclusively by senior citizens
ages 65 and up. The property will include detached single-family homes
beginning in the far northwest corner of the property followed by
townhomes that will be three to four units in occupancy."
Presently Missbrenner does not own the entire
Salesian property. The gymnasium was not included in the original
"We are presently looking for the owner of
the gymnasium because we would like to include that in the overall
construction of the homes," Missbrenner said. "We plan on
tearing down every building on the property excluding the main brick
building (adjacent to the parking lot entering the property)," said
The last attempt to redevelop the Salesian
property was in the mid-1980s, when Chicago businesswoman Ona
Pranckeviciute bought all 86 acres of land to create multi-phase senior
citizens complex similar to Missbrenner's.
But the Indiana Health Department denied the
request, forcing Pranckeviciute to close on the investment.
Missbrenner has experience constructing and
owning retirement villages. His most recent acquisition was in Burr
"I am not just a builder of these homes
like most other owners, I also maintain and operate them with my
staff," he said. "When all of the construction is done I want
to make sure that the premises are running correctly and up to
Members of the Plan Commission, concerned about
getting the property back on tax roles, wondered whether Missbrenner's
facility would be a tax-paying, for-profit business or not.
"We are definitely a for-profit
enterprise," stated Missbrenner, easing the minds of the board.
Plans for the property include asphalt walking
paths throughout the homes, all of which will be handicap accessible.
With the entire facility marketed towards
senior citizens, Plan Commission member Tim Kubiak wondered what would
happen to a home if the owner died and left the property to a younger
grandson or granddaughter.
"We are going to make sure that prior to
purchasing a home the buyer is informed that only residents 65 and older
can purchase a retirement home," said Missbrenner.
Missbrenner will be back before the Plan
Commission at its June 6 workshop.
says no to wine bar
By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor
CROWN POINT - The City Council on Monday shot down
John Desmaretz's plan to open a wine and cigar bar at 513 N. Main St.
Desmaretz's plan to use 801 N. Main St. as a
valet parking lot, and to limit entrance and exit at the 513 property to
southbound traffic, was approved by the city's Board of Zoning Appeals,
but four council members overturned that recommendation.
Councilman James Wirtz, R-at large, said
traffic on the part of Main Street where Desmaretz's "Naughty
Grapes" would be located - just north of Goldsborough Street - was
already too heavy.
"You're at the narrowest part of Main
Street," Wirtz said the Desmaretz. "I just think there's a
real possibility you'll have traffic problems there."
Councilman Paul Bremer, R-1st, said he was
concerned mainly about the parking issue.
People tend to park as close to their
destination as possible, Bremer argued. In the case of Naughty Grapes,
that would mean Levin Tire, Attorney John Sorbello's office, or Monitor
Street, he said.
On the traffic issue, Desmaretz said his
main business hours would be after the peak traffic hours had passed.
Also, the BZA requirement that vehicles
only be allowed to enter Naughty Grapes from southbound Main Street, and
only exit to southbound Main Street, would help keep traffic flowing,
On parking, he said his valets would watch
where customers are parking.
"If someone parks in a location we know is
not acceptable, they will not be served in our establishment,"
Councilman Robert Condron, R-4th, said those
provisions would be unenforceable.
Two councilmen supported Desmaretz's request for an exemption from the
city's on-site parking requirement.
"Their parking problem is a management
problem," Councilman Michael Conquest, R-at large, said. And
"it sounds workable to me."
Councilman Robert Corbin, R-5th, said he was
prepared to give Desmaretz a chance and review the operation after one
year, as the Board of Zoning Appeal's recommendation required.
But Councilman Stephen Farley, R-2nd, agreed
with Wirtz, Bremer, and Condron that granting an exception to city code
Desmaretz pleaded with the council, telling
them "you don't know how much money I've invested in this building.
If you want me to get down on my knees I'll do it."
Farley suggested Desmaretz move his
equipment to a new building, but Desmaretz said the equipment and
antique furnishings would be too expensive to move.
"You should've come to us (for approval)
earlier," Farley responded.
Desmaretz said he would have if he had known
zoning codes were so strictly enforced.
The council considered two other zoning matters
In the first, it unanimously denied Dennis
Hegyi's request to operate a machine shop business in his detached
garage at 600 Merrillville Rd.
By code, a home occupation permit may be
granted for working in a property's main structure, but not an
outbuilding like a garage.
Finally, the council approved developer
Tom Fleming's request for a special use variance to allow construction
of 74 townhome units in the 11800 block of Broadway.
The proposal will now return to the Plan
Commission for approval.