Chesterton Tribune

Public assembly ordinance advances in Burns Harbor

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The Burns Harbor Advisory Plan Commission forwarded a zoning amendment to the Town Council dealing with large public assemblies, but planners decided an ordinance that would regulate digging in public rights-of-way needs more work.

If OK’d by the council, the assembly ordinance would regulate any show, concert or gathering at which 100 or more persons would be charged to attend/enter the event, or at which alcoholic beverages would be sold.

A permit process is outlined, beginning with application made in writing at least 45 days prior to the event to the town clerk-treasurer giving specific information about the proposed activity; also, review by town department heads would occur, certified notice given to adjoining neighbors and a final determination made at a public Town Council meeting.

Cost of the permit application would range from $100 for more than 100 attendees but less than 1,000 to multiples of that amount depending on crowd size.

The provisions of the ordinance would not apply to any indoor or outdoor assembly at an established and permanent stadium, banquet hall, auditorium, arena or place of worship.

No one spoke on the ordinance’s merits at a required public hearing Monday.

Residential impact weighed

An additional zoning proposal that would have amended the excavation ordinance was pulled; language in the town building code may be changed instead. After staff review this month a revised proposal will be discussed at the June 6 commission meeting.

Originally the commission wanted to strengthen the excavation ordinance so commercial/industrial contractors and utility crews digging in town right-of-way would have to give notice and provide basic details like contact information. But the intended changes mushroomed potentially into also requiring homeowners to apply for an excavation permit, which includes an application fee and hearing before the Plan Commission, if the right-of-way to be disturbed was on their residential property.

“I’m not waiting 45 days to put in a bush,” said commission president Jeff Freeze. Others questioned how homeowners would install mailboxes and other yard amenities, and the cost of obtaining an excavation permit was a concern.

Hesham Khalil of town engineer Global Land Surveying and Engineering said Burns Harbor now is included on the 811 utility locate program to identify the placement of town-owned infrastructure including underground wiring for the street lights in the Village of Burns Harbor subdivision.

Charging a fee to offset the cost of the town’s 811 inspections is being considered by its Sanitary Board, said Khalil.

Commission member Jerry Price said the town could require everyone who plans to dig to ask for a utility locate, but existing residential property owners wouldn’t have to pay. It was noted by others that even well-meaning homeowners still could damage town infrastructure.

Said commission and council member Toni Biancardi, “We tried to make everything fit in the excavation ordinance and it doesn’t fit.”

Khalil, commission attorney Charles Parkinson and building commissioner Bill Arney were asked to consider alternate ways to assure the protections needed are in place yet not put an undue burden on homeowners.

In a related matter, Lake Shore Ford owner Bob Kerr explained why piles of dirt have been dumped on land he owns east of the U.S. 20 dealership; last year dirt was placed with Kerr’s approval on 15 acres he owns west of Pilot Travel Center, too. Arney had notified Kerr of both violations.

"All I thought was it’s an opportunity to get some free dirt so I jumped on it,” Kerr told the commission.

Changing the grade east of Lake Shore could impact stormwater flooding at Old Porter Road, Khalil said, and dumping at the 15-acre site could run afoul of filling in wetlands. Kerr was instructed to meet with town officials and return June 6 with a status report or excavation-permit application that also regulates elevation changes.

Concrete rubble evicted

Arney said he’s going to get tough over large piles of broken concrete sitting north of U.S. 20 where the former Standard Plaza truck stop east of Indiana 149 was torn down by the town last year.

Wells Fargo Bank reimbursed Burns Harbor for its demolition costs as representative of the Nevada owners, but Arney told the commission a bank official is stonewalling when it comes to removing the debris after environmental testing took place at the site months ago.

Biancardi said the town didn’t go to the effort of having the derelict plaza torn down only to have the site still look bad. Arney said maximum fine for the lack of action is $2,500 per day.

In other business, commission members discussed the need to update town code regarding LED signs, the new industry standard. Brightness, colors and length of time a message is displayed need to be addressed, they said.

Khalil is active in the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce, which won recent town approval there to put up a new, decorative LED welcome sign in Chesterton to advertise member businesses and announce local events. He suggested Burns Harbor wait to see the chamber plans for its sign’s construction and operation.

In the interim, said Khalil, Burns Harbor could issue a moratorium on LED signs. No action was taken.


Posted 5/3/2011