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Proposed annexations could bring more industrial land and another gas station into Valparaiso

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The city of Valparaiso may soon be adding land for a new gas station and future industrial development. The city council heard a pair of annexation requests Monday.

One would add about 100 acres south of Division Road between County Road 150 East and State Road 49. That would include an existing NIPSCO facility, along with a new gas station being planned by Family Express.

Council member Ellen Kapitan questioned whether adding a gas station might be short-sighted. "A gas station in 2024 seems like a weird use of space because we're hopefully getting from gasoline. I understand we're not [yet]," Kapitan said, sparking laughter in the audience. "Oh, it's not a joke because then it turns into a superfund site, and we have those areas that are dirty and they need cleaned and you can't develop on them after they've been gas stations."

Developers argued that there are more safety regulations in place now. That should make cleanup easier, if the land ever gets redeveloped.

The other annexation would add about 89 acres east of County Road 325 East and north of the Norfolk Southern tracks. Valparaiso Planning Director Beth Shrader said there aren't currently any plans to develop the land, but being part of the city could make that easier in the future.

"If a project was proposed and they wanted to sell, then they would be back before the city to go through all the process for site development," Shrader explained.

But nearby resident Frank Mattei voiced concern with keeping the land zoned for industrial development, when it's currently used for farmland and a few homes.

Still, Mayor Jon Costas felt the State Road 49 corridor is a logical place for future industry. "This is right contiguous to the city. This is where the city's growing, so we have a duty to help it develop in a way that's consistent with, sort of, the needs of the area," Costas said.

The southernmost part of one annexation may be zoned for rural development, to help address neighbors' concerns. One thing that won't be allowed, at least in the near future, is solar farms, which are currently prohibited within city limits. The additional land is expected to bring a modest increase in revenue to Valparaiso with no additional cost, under fiscal plans approved by the city council.

The annexations will be up for final approval during the council's February 26 meeting.