New Buffalo Planning Commission approves Petite Acres site plan

NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Planning Commission on July 2 approved a revised site plan for Petite Acres – a proposed hotel/event space to be located at 1109 E. Buffalo St.

Previously, Justin and Jeana Cohen, presented the City Council with their concept which called the “hotel” a “Bed and Breakfast.” According to City Manager Darwin Watson, “the first draft of their proposal named the accommodations as a B&B which requires a special use permit in the city.”

This language was changed to “Hotel” which works with the city’s zoning restrictions.

While public comment included several concerned neighbors who questioned the increased traffic, parking and utility usage, Watson assured the group that these issues will be addressed when the plan is reviewed by the City’s building department.

The husband and wife team’s vision for Petite Acres is to be a place to “stay” (there will be approximately 10 “tiny cottages,” a remodeled larger dwelling – “chateau” and a bunkhouse), “host” (curated weddings and corporate retreats can be held in the 3700 square foot event barn), “play” (they hope to hold year-round special community events on the properties) and “move” (there will be a gym and sauna to allow for wellness retreats on the property.)

When asked what spurred the decision to create this retreat venue, Jeana Cohen stated, “I had a dream during Covid that we moved to a multi-acre farm to escape the high paced city life. Realizing that wasn’t going to work for Justin, we settled on the idea of creating a place for us and others to celebrate, relax, connect with nature and experience wellness near the lake and in the woods.”

The Cohens are hoping to break ground sometime in the fall of this year.

The Planning Commission also voted on July 2 to approve (with conditions) the Draft Zoning Ordinance which was available for public review from April 22 – May 22, 2024, and discussed as part of a public hearing at the regular planning commission meeting on June 4, 2024.

There were 6 “uses by right” that the Planning Commission chose to be “by special use” which will be revised to the original language. Additionally, there was a clerical error regarding a property at 17 S. Mayhew which will be changed.

Watson reminded that Commission, “The Zoning Ordinance is a ‘living document’ and should be continually updated and amended as needed.”

After these revisions are made, the Ordinance will be brought to the City Council.

City Clerk Amy Fidler initiated the nomination of new officers for the Commission.

“The bylaws dictate that you need to elect new officers in June of each year,” Fidler told the group.

The decision was made as follows: Debbie Schmidt will assume the position of Chair; Mick Lantis as Vice-Chair; Katha Kissman as Secretary.

Schmidt thanked Paul Billingslea (who was in attendance) for his service and work on the Commission.

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