Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbor planners to auto dealers: If you don't like sign ordinance tell us

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Burns Harbor Advisory Plan Commission members said Monday if the town’s car dealers don’t like the zoning ordinance’s sign restrictions, they should come to a meeting and say so.

Until that time, “The code is what the code is and should be enforced,” said commission and Town Council member Toni Biancardi, but who like others welcomed input from the car dealers to find a common ground.

Last month building commissioner Bill Arney said there was confusion over how to interpret the ordinance language limiting the use of temporary signs such as pennants, banners and inflatables to no more than 30 days per calendar year and no more than 32 square feet per individual sign.

Commission attorney Chuck Parkinson said Monday that the 30 days are cumulative, not 30 days for each permit issued for a temporary sign. “If this is the 31st day you’ve had a sign up (this year), you’re in violation of the ordinance.”

Arney said the permit applications will be adjusted to reflect when the temporary signs are being put up and taken down to keep track of the total days per year.

He also said, in addition to the 30 total days being too few, some car dealers feel the 32 square-foot maximum for temporary signs is too small because typically most banners are 4 feet by 12 feet or even 16 feet. Commission member Terry Swanson said dealers might be required to use corporate banners of a certain size.

Member Jan Hines said the commission shouldn’t be in a hurry to change the sign rules when the business owners haven’t made a personal effort to present what they don’t like about them. Parkinson said when the zoning ordinance was amended last year, no one spoke out regarding temporary signs.

Commission member Bernie Poparad urged taking a tough stance with any car dealer who doesn’t get sign permits, ignores Arney’s citations for violations and places temporary signs and banners up at will because it’s not fair to the competing dealers who comply with town code.

And the Town Council certainly shouldn’t buy a police car from a local business that is in repeated violation of the sign ordinance, Poparad added.

Commission president Jeff Freeze suggested the council weigh how far it wants to extend friendliness to local businesses. Jim McGee, a commission member and the council president, said he wants to know if the ordinance should be more liveable for the car dealers to maintain a working relationship with the town.

For his part, “There will be a phone call made tomorrow,” said McGee. “Communication is all we need; talk to people.”

In other business, the commission voted 7-0 twice to extend the infrastructure completion dates and financial guarantees posted for developers whose subdivisions have slowed due to the soft housing market.

Tom Lightfoot representing RB Developers of 200-home Corlin’s Landing on South Babcock Road had his dates extended to July, 2011. “Sales have been a little slow but there are some sales out there,” he told the commission.

Developer Dick Davis of Parkwood Estates on Haglund Road had his completion and bond dates extended to May and November of 2011, but Davis questioned why he has to reimburse the town for a new punch list drawn up by town engineer Global Land Surveying when he also paid for one prepared by the town’s previous engineer Haas & Associates.

Global estimated a cost of $120,726 to complete the outstanding infrastructure work and repairs needed at Parkwood Estates. Davis said his bond was reduced by a previous Plan Commission from $440,000 to $47,000. Poparad asked how that could be with two-thirds or 24 of 38 lots yet to be built upon.

Davis said he’s caught between the town and individual contractors who get occupancy permits, leave, then a sidewalk sinks and it’s the developer left holding the bag. Freeze asked Hesham Khalil of Global to review the records involved and to report back next month.

Said Davis, “I’m not going anywhere. We’ll do the work, but it’s troublesome to pay for engineers time and time again."



Posted 5/4/2010