After a lengthy discussion, the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals voted
to table the most controversial case of Wednesday night’s meeting.
More than an hour of, at times, heated discussion about a proposed storage
unit facility on 1050N just west of 125 E. wasn’t enough to grant or deny
eight zoning variances requested by Bennett Storage Inc.
The case will be heard at the board’s next monthly meeting after discussion
between board members and the developers of the property.
The proposed facility would be a long three-building complex on a narrow
strip of land that is already zoned for industrial use. The issue isn’t
whether the builder, Bill Bennett, can construct storage units, the current
I-2 zoning allows for that, but whether the board would grant him variances
to make the complex big enough to house 290 units.
To have the three buildings in the complex, variances reducing the buffers
on three sides of the property would be necessary along with other variances
reducing the amount of landscaping required under the UDO.
Board Members Rick Burns and Marvin Brickner both questioned the need for
another storage facility with several having vacancies in a small radius as
well as the validity of reducing the landscaping requirements that could
hide storage units, which are often an eyesore.
“I think every board member that drove past this property and imagined
another storage area thought ‘we can’t do that here,’” Brickner said. “It’s
a nice piece of property on a quiet country road.”
Brickner stated that storage facilities are better suited for truly
industrial areas that are located on major roads, not patches of farmland
that, while zoned for industry, have never been used as such and are now
Bennett’s council, Todd Leeth, tried to get the landscaping variances on the
grounds that the property runs alongside a NIPSCO owned property that holds
several large high tension power line towers. The board acknowledged that
NIPSCO wouldn’t care about the lack of a proper buffer, but citizens
driving, biking or running down 1050N would view this big, unobstructed
complex as an eyesore.
Board members didn’t take an official vote, but several seemed prepared to
grant some of the requested variances including a storm water provision
necessitated by underground NIPSCO gas lines, gravel driveways and the lack
of sidewalks, but didn’t want to allow for reduced greenage on the site.
Board members thought the owner was trying to build too big a complex on the
site and wanted him to scale back the project to properly fit the site.
Two local property owners spoke against the proposal, while the former owner
of the property in question spoke in favor of the variances.
After lengthy discussion and three residents speaking against it, the board
voted 5-0 to grant variances for Aldred Homes to build a design studio at
703 North Calumet Ave. in Liberty Township.
Aldred Homes was denied the same variance in April, but for Wednesday’s
meeting brought plans for a studio that not only appears to be a normal
house, but will easily be converted to one after the business changes
The board seemed satisfied that the new design would not be an eyesore in
the area and would appear no different than if a family was living on the
property. The board also concluded that Aldred’s plan to divert rainwater
from the back of the house to the front of the property would be more of a
benefit than a detriment to the often soggy campground that is downhill from
In old business, the board voted 5-0 to extend a variance on 1101 Cumberland
Crossing in Jackson Township to allow for horse stables and riding on the
property of Dr. Virgil DiBase.
The original variance was for a therapeutic riding stable, but the
therapeutic rides will no longer be conducted on the site. The variance will
only be for personal use by DiBase. Board member Tim Cole said he knew
several residents in the area and that there have never been any complaints
and didn’t expect an issue.
The property is also for sale and when it sells the variance automatically