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Monday, July 20, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Packed meeting focuses on State Park pavilion project"

Updating earlier ILB posts on this topic, Rob Earnshawof the NWI Times reported late last week, in a story with a number of photos:

VALPARAISO | Opponents are mostly in favor of the pavilion restoration but not the proposed banquet center. Propents say the entire project will bring tourism dollars and allow people access to the beach who otherwise wouldn't have it.

Speros Batistatos, chair of the Dunes National Park Association, said the DNPA supports the project. Batistatos is also the president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.

They all packed the Memorial Opera House on Thursday for a meeting designed to clear the air about the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion restoration and expansion project.

The meeting was hosted by Indiana Dunes Tourism, whose board voted 6-1 in support of the project. Board member Chuck Williams recused himself from the vote because he is with Pavilion Partners LLC, the investment group behind the project. Board Vice President Jesse Harper cast the lone no vote.

"I am not opposed to a conference center but I would like to see a design first," he said.

He also noted that the contract between Pavilion Partners and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has already been signed and the board is "closing the door after the horse has already left." * * *

Work continues on the pavilion and the comfort center. The banquet center should be completed in the spring of 2017. Butterfield said a hotel or marina are not part of the proposal or plan, but if discussions on those happen in the future it would require a separate process by the state.

The Gary Post-Tribune story by Amy Lavalley has a different take. Some quotes:
In a meeting that at times was raucous and threatened to veer out of control Thursday, all sides got to have their say about a controversial project that will put a banquet/conference center on the edge of the beach at Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton.

Representatives from Pavilion Partners LLC, which is renovating the beach pavilion and building the additional structure, talked about the project's added value to both the park and the local economy, and their commitment to an environmentally sound undertaking.

Supporters said the structure would keep people in Porter County to spend money and would provide additional access to views of Lake Michigan, while detractors noted worries about the safety of serving alcohol along the lakefront and a desire to retain the park as pristine.

And finally, the board of Indiana Dunes Tourism, which sponsored the meeting at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso so Pavilion Partners could present their plans publicly, voted to support the project in the name of tourism. Chuck Williams, a member of the tourism board and principle in Pavilion Partners, recused himself, and board member Jesse Harper voted against the move because final plans for the building haven't been developed yet.

The 360-seat opera house was filled, and many people stood along the walls. Porter County Sheriff's Department officers lined the back wall by the door and Mitch Peters, president of the tourism board and facilitator of the meeting, urged the audience to keep order. * * *

All the speakers agreed that the pavilion, constructed in 1930 and the former site for a restaurant that closed 35 years ago, was in disrepair and in need of the renovation by Pavilion Partners. The point of contention is the planned banquet center. * * *

Pavilion Partners has applied for a liquor license, which will be considered by the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission on Tuesday in Indianapolis. "It does not provide that alcohol will be allowed on the beach," she said, adding it would allow alcohol 100 feet from the structure in the parking lot, but only with a special event permit. She also said a marina and hotel are not part of the plans for the site.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 20, 2015 09:29 AM
Posted to Indiana Government