Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbor BZA allows towing service in downtown zoning district

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The Burns Harbor Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 Tuesday approving a towing service and impound storage yard in the new downtown zoning district.

Approval was granted for Dan Tratar and Charles Haskell as A-1 Towing, LLC operating out of A-1 Complete Auto Care at 347 W. Melton Rd. (U.S. 20).

Tom Marconi, Gordon McCormack and Amy Zehner voted for the use variance; Jim Meeks and Terry Swanson voted no.

No one spoke in favor of the variance at Tuesday’s public hearing and six persons remonstrated against it, according to BZA secretary Toni Biancardi.

The town used $100,000 in grant money earlier this year to draft a new comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance. The latter permits neither vehicle repair nor towing in the downtown district, however, A-1 Complete Auto is the site of the former Dean’s automotive which sold and repaired vehicles there for decades.

With adoption of the comprehensive plan/zoning ordinance in June, A-1 Complete Auto became a legal but non-conforming use and BZA permission is required to add the towing service.

Tratar said he needs to keep his tow trucks on-site in Burns Harbor to bring disabled vehicles to his shop and store them until they can be repaired or removed, which is cheaper and more efficient than keeping the tow trucks elsewhere in rented space.

Biancardi said the remonstrators told the BZA that a towing/impound yard does not conform to the comprehensive plan, and residents who live in the adjacent The Village in Burns Harbor subdivision said towing is noisy and unattractive. An auto-repair business was operating at 347 W. Melton Rd. when The Village was built.

Tratar said he wants to put up a fence in the future when financially able, said Biancardi, and he indicated he has cleaned up the property substantially since he purchased it, the latter a point Zehner also noted.

Zehner said Tratar owned the property prior to the new comprehensive plan going into effect, that towing is the way disabled vehicles get to and from an auto shop so other tow trucks would be coming in, and that the town needs all the businesses it can get.

She also said auto repair/service is consistent with the needs of a downtown district where small businesses are encouraged, and such use has been operated at Tratar’s current location for 25 years.

As described in the Burns Harbor zoning ordinance, the general character of the downtown district, which is designated along portions of U.S. 20 west of Indiana 149, is that it be a mix of commercial, mixed-use and multi-family residential buildings with a high degree of pedestrian amenities that allow community members to meet their daily and weekly needs on foot, bicycle and motor vehicle.

“Part of being a BZA member is considering what’s best for the town. We take into consideration a lot of different factors. The zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan are very important because they show where the town wants to go; for us (as BZA members), we’ll look at what’s good for the town now,” said Zehner.

She also added that the zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan are very new and not perfect to begin with, as evidenced by the Advisory Plan Commission asking the Town Council to amend sections of the ordinance. Nevertheless, said Zehner, the BZA is implementing it to the best of members’ ability.

Tratar’s application for use variance said he wants to tow small to medium-duty vehicles to and from his repair shop.

Zehner said no conditions, like the maximum number of tow trucks or number and size of vehicles allowed in the impound lot, were placed on the BZA approval other than that it is limited to the current property owners.

In order to approve the use variance, among the findings the BZA had to make was that the need for it arose from some condition peculiar to the property involved, that the approval does not interfere substantially with the comprehensive plan, and that the use and value of the area adjacent to the subject property will not be affected in a substantially adverse manner.




Posted 10/29/2009