By PAULENE POPARAD
After a lengthy discussion with opposing opinions, the Burns Harbor Advisory
Plan Commission agreed to discuss restrictions for LED signage at its Aug. 6
If enough of a consensus can be reached, a proposed ordinance might be ready
for public hearing in September before advancing to the Town Council for
The town zoning ordinance addresses the location, height and size of signs
and allows billboards in certain zones but doesn’t specifically address LED
technology other than banning flashing signs, said building commissioner
There are two pending requests for signs in town that likely will be heard
by the Board of Zoning Appeals later this month. Commission president Jeff
Freeze said the BZA can put conditions on any approval and require
commitments from the petitioners.
Commission and BZA member Terry Swanson said that’s putting alot of
responsibility on the BZA to come up with all the protections the town needs
in the absence of an ordinance that spells it out.
Freeze said without an ordinance, future BZAs might not know what the
community is willing to accept. He said the sign industry is moving to LED
technology and favored having certain specifications such signs should meet.
Former BZA member Gene Weibl, who now sits on the commission and Town
Council, said even if an ordinance is in place, the BZA still can grant
variances, but if you have nothing it’s wide open.
Shem Khalil of town engineer Global Engineering & Land Surveying used the
new Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce LED sign on Indiana 49 --- built
into a landscaped, stone monument base --- as an example of a pleasing way
to integrate LED signage in town.
Commission and Town Council member Jim McGee asked why Burns Harbor would
want to allow LED signs. “What I’ve seen going to Merrillville and Michigan
City, I don’t like that at all.”
But commission member Marcus Rogala said the discussion is a waste of time.
“Times are changing. Are you going to tell a person they can’t put up
Christmas lights? They’re LED.” He asked where’s the harm to have an LED
sign at the already-bright I-94 Auto Mall on U.S. 20 in town, and Rogala
noted Burns Harbor’s fueling/convenience stations have LED signs displaying
the price of gasoline now.
It was agreed Khalil will send commission members proposed LED
specifications to consider for the August discussion, and the BZA also will
be provided the information for its July 26 meeting. Associate town attorney
Julie Paulson said the BZA can attach any conditions to approval it wishes.
Parkwood seeks two lots
Also Monday, developer Dick Davis sought concept review for a proposed
replat of Outlots A and B in his Parkwood Estates subdivision west of
Lakeland Park. He wants the outlots to become sellable residential lots 41
and 42. A temporary 50-foot-radius turnaround for emergency services is in
place without curbs and gutters at the west end of Lake Park Avenue at the
The turnaround maintains a point to provide connectivity in the event the
large vacant tract of land to the west is ever developed. A permanent
cul-de-sac would require a 60-foot radius.
Freeze said it appears the commission would be open to hearing a replat
petition unless something drastically changes from the plans discussed
Developer challenges fees
The Plan Commission, with member Jan Hines absent, opted to take no action
regarding a letter from James D. Combs of L. I. Combs & Sons Inc. alleging
the firm has been overcharged thousands of dollars for permit and inspection
fees related to its ongoing construction of the Traditions apartment complex
at The Village subdivision.
Paulson said Combs’ administrative remedy through the town is filing an
appeal with the BZA. Instead, he sent the letter to the Indiana Department
of Local Government Finance seeking an investigation. The DLGF approves
budgets; it’s the State Board of Accounts that performs audits.
Burns Harbor clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan said the SBA will check town
records and the allegation won’t be ignored.
After Monday’s meeting, Jordan was told by Paulson that her firm will
prepare a legal opinion to have on file for the SBA regarding the fees.
Arney said the town requires that certain fees be based on the number of
units in a building, not merely one permit or inspection fee for the entire
Combs’ letter indicated this phase of Traditions has 75 apartments in 10
buildings of either seven or eight units in addition to five separate garage
buildings, and that he paid the fees rather than delay construction for the