Chesterton Tribune

County BZA tables variances for storage unit complex on 1050N

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BY DOUG ELISH

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 residential areas.

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.

Other variance cases

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 locations.

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 the property.

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 terminates.

 

 

Posted 8/4/2011