Chesterton Tribune

Judge to rule in Burns Harbor truck terminal zoning dispute

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By PAULENE POPARAD

A nearly four-year Burns Harbor zoning dispute is now in the hands of Porter County Superior Court Judge David Chidester following a hearing Monday.

Town attorney Robert Welsh alleged Bill Scott, doing business as Scott’s Way, is illegally operating a truck terminal at 277 Melton Rd. on U.S. 20 after being informed in late 2007 that he would need special approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals to conduct that operation.

BZA approval was granted for a previous petitioner in 1980 to perform truck repair and maintenance work only at that location. Dispatching, loading/unloading, outside storage and warehousing were not approved.

Scott also had been advised in 2009 by town building commissioner Bill Arney about excessive square footage of signage on the building, and for having affixed some signage without a building permit.

At the hearing’s conclusion Chidester gave Scott’s attorney Terry Hiestand 48 hours to file additional paperwork, and the judge advised Welsh to submit a proposed order.

The town seeks an injunction barring Scott from conducting truck-dispatching and terminal operations including overnight truck/trailer parking; the town’s also asking to require him to apply for sign permits, reimburse the town for its costs and legal expenses in the case, and pay a $2,000 fine.

Hiestand sought to dismiss the town’s action against Scott because Lisco Inc. owns the subject property, which is leased to Job Steel Corp. They were rejected by the BZA in 2008 after seeking zoning approval to operate a truck terminal at the site. The denial was appealed and is pending in another court.

Welsh said Lisco and Job Steel can’t appeal, then let the lawsuit languish for three years as a delaying tactic. Scott’s Way is identified as the truck carrier and it makes no difference who owns or leases the property, added Welsh. Chidester agreed Scott’s Way is the proper party.

The town’s two witnesses were Arney and town marshal Jerry Price. Hiestand called none of his own; Scott was present in court.

Arney said the prior zoning of the site was Commercial-2 and subsequently changed to Residential/Commercial-2, which doesn’t allow a freight terminal, warehousing or open storage. Hiestand questioned how the parcel to the east, CampLand, can store campers openly as outside storage on that property. Arney said they received prior BZA approval.

Hiestand also said there are many semi-trucks going in and out of Pilot Travel Center on U.S. 20 east of CampLand, and to and from the C.R. England midwest regional truck terminal off Indiana 149. Again, Arney said those businesses obtained BZA approval first and in Pilot’s case there is a stop light at its entrance and none at Scott’s Way.

Hiestand questioned how it can pose a danger to the town’s health, safety and welfare by “Mr. Scott doing paperwork in his building.” He also noted that John Zehner used the site years ago for some of the same purposes as Scott.

Hiestand also asked Arney if he knew how many jobs are involved with Scott’s business, and if Arney were aware the north end of the site had been cleaned up. Welsh objected and Chidester said the points were irrelevant.

But when Hiestand said it’s a matter of whether the Burns Harbor zoning ordinance is being selectively enforced, Chidester asked him to submit additional comments on that point.

Hiestand tried to elicit from Arney why if “surface parking” is allowed in an R/C-2 zone, the trucks Scott has parked at his business aren’t allowed under that exemption. Arney attempted to explain but Hiestand said his answer lacked clarity.

Arney testified he’s heard statements and people who work at Scott’s Way advise him truck dispatching is done at the business. Price testified that twice in 2010 he had occassion to speak separately to semi-truck drivers who informed him they pick-up and deliver orders, typically transporting steel coils, to and from Scott’s Way.

The first driver said he had a bill of lading to go to the site where he would deliver a load and receive payment from Scott’s Way, said Price, and the driver confirmed a dispatcher is on-site. The second driver said he, too, received orders to pick-up and deliver objects from Scott’s Way, added Price.

Hiestand showed neither driver was involved in any traffic incident at his client’s location.

 

Posted 12/13/2011