The Burns Harbor Board of Zoning Appeals has been sued, but it doesn’t have
enough money to defend itself.
Voting Tuesday, the BZA agreed to ask the Burns Harbor Town Council --- one
of the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit --- for money.
BZA members and their attorney, Charles Parkinson of Harris, Welsh & Lukmann,
met in closed executive session last night prior to the public BZA meeting.
Parkinson later said his firm, which has represented the Burns Harbor Town
Council for many years, is precluded ethically from counseling either side
in the dispute.
The BZA motion specified that its president, Terry Swanson, ask the council
to schedule a special public meeting to appropriate money for the BZA to
hire an attorney. Vote was 4-0 with member Gene Weibl absent.
The council has hired Ice Miller LLC, one of the most prominent law firms in
the state, to appeal an Aug. 24 BZA decision.
The Town Council, two residents and 10 town businesses sued the BZA over its
3-2 vote approving a 250 semi-truck parking lot for CR England trucking;
although located across the street, the lot is an expansion of the
Utah-based company’s Midwest regional terminal at 321 Tech Dr.
The BZA has some company in defending itself against the lawsuit.
Also sued were England, Tech Business Center developer William J. Brant Jr.
& Associates, and Robert Poparad and Maria Poparad, who own land on which
the parking lot would be built west of Indiana 149 and south of Tech Drive.
A co-plaintiff in the appeal is Steelworkers Hall Inc., described in the
complaint as owning property and operating a union facility in Burns Harbor.
England attorney Terry Hiestand said he believes the union hall, south of
the proposed truck lot, is outside the town limits.
The BZA did some housekeeping Tuesday to finalize paperwork approving
England’s truck lot as a special exception for a freight terminal, which was
rapped in the appeal as the incorrect zoning application to have been made.
Ice Miller maintains England should have sought a rezoning instead.
Approved and finalized Tuesday as well were findings for two England
variances also OK’d last month: one allowing a 7 foot-tall chain link fence
including the barbed-wire top, and a second allowing construction of two
guardhouses for security.
Eight additional conditions were imposed on the special exception, among
them that the “stacking” of containers, trailers or truck boxes at the site
is not permitted and in no event shall any of the above on the property
exceed 15 feet in height measured from grade.
England is not allowed to permit individuals to enter the parking facility
without demonstrating a business necessity, and drivers are not permitted to
sleep in their truck cab compartment; trucks shall not stand idle with
engines running for periods of time exceeding 60 minutes.
The Town Council met in special session Sept. 16 to hire Ice Miller and to
authorize the BZA appeal.
At that meeting Councilman Cliff Fleming, who is also an individual
plaintiff in the lawsuit as manager of BH LLC, said the position taken by
the BZA may contradict the town’s new master plan, could pose health and
safety concerns due to increased truck traffic, and could pose substantial
cost to the town if modifications are needed at the Indiana 149/Old Porter
Road intersection, the latter a town street.
The plaintiffs are asking that the entire BZA file regarding England’s
petitions be presented to Porter Superior Court Judge Mary Harper for her
review, and that she reverse the BZA and remand the case back to it with
instructions to deny the special exception and two variances.