Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbor planners mull regulating political signs

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Can a town regulate the size of campaign yard signs?

Should it be legal for a 20-foot by 8-foot campaign sign mounted on a trailer to be moved from site to site?

On the eve of today’s election the Burns Harbor Advisory Plan Commission raised those questions; their attorney said it’s a matter for the Town Council and that body would have to authorize his legal research.

Attorney Charles Parkinson said there’s a big difference between commercial speech and political speech and he wouldn’t venture an opinion on the questions posed. “I’m not going to make a judgement on that this evening.”

Town building commissioner Bill Arney said Burns Harbor’s ordinance requires a $10 permit if a sign is larger than 6 square feet, but the ordinance makes no reference to a maximum sign size.

Commission president Jeff Freeze asked whether the permit fee could be made proportionate to the size of the sign.

Parkinson said political signs are considered political speech. Member Bernie Poparad said nobody’s suggesting anyone’s speech be denied. “They just can’t yell at us.” He said 16 square feet is usually the largest yard sign candidates use.

In other business, the commission voted 6-0 with member Jerry Price absent to give representatives of The Village in Burns Harbor subdivision a Nov. 15 deadline to have their revised petition submitted if they want a public hearing Dec. 6. At last month’s meeting the commission voted 4-2 to have the public hearing Monday if a number of items were submitted/revised, but Parkinson said not all were addressed.

By letter Village developer Cliff Fleming asked for a continuance and that the hearing be reset for Dec. 6. The hearing will be on Phases 4-8 containing 67 additional single-family lots, three park lots and four multi-family lots each having several two-story, manor-home buildings.

Commission members Toni Biancardi and Poparad said the town has been burned before by other petitioners who changed their plans between the preliminary hearing and the public hearing resulting in later problems for the town, so the commission should require that all final plans be filed and reviewed before a public hearing is set.

Freeze said his concern was government slowing down business interests unnecessarily. Biancardi said petitioners can ask for a special commission meeting to accomodate their schedule.

It was agreed if the Nov. 15 deadline isn’t met, the Village subdivision petition will continue under a preliminary hearing.

Also Monday, John Miller of Miller Electrical and Construction, who’s purchased 12 lots in Parkwood Estates subdivision, asked permission to install drainage pipe and to fill in the drainage ditch on the south side of Lake Park Road. Doing so will give lot owners use of the full 165 feet of lot depth they purchased rather than having an open drainage swale, added Miller.

Parkinson said it sounds like Miller wants to vacate a portion of an existing utility easement in exchange for another easement, and that would be the jurisdiction of the Town Council. Biancardi asked town department heads to review Miller’s request, and he was urged to get on the council agenda.

This month the Town Council cancelled its regular Nov.10 meeting and will meet Nov. 17 instead. President Jim McGee said it was to assure a quorum would be present.

In a final matter, member Terry Swanson asked if it had been determined which schedule of fees for the Building Department had been approved. Parkinson said the one on the town website is correct.



Posted 11/2/2010