Chesterton Tribune

Town abandons plans to retrofit United Tractor building, will build new facility

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In April 2005 the Chesterton Utility bought the former and long-vacant United Tractor facility at 116 N. 15th St.—a 28,732-square foot building on a 2.95-acre site—for $375,000.

The idea was to retrofit the facility and then headquarter there the town’s engineering, stormwater management, and economic development functions—possibly also the Park and Recreation Department—and to store on site equipment and vehicles belonging to the Utility and Street Department and not currently in seasonal use.

At the time former Utility superintendent Steve Yagelski expressed the confidence that most of the renovation of the building could be done in-house.

More than four years later, however, the building remains empty. And it will always remain empty.

Turns out, it will cost the town less to raze the building altogether and start from scratch than to renovate it.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting, it was decided to reject a pair of proposals received for the project and prepare a second request for proposals (RFP) for the design-build of a brand-new facility, after Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann described the proposals as non-responsive.

“Neither proposal was responsive to the specs,” Lukmann said. “Which made everyone re-think the process.”

“We were going to re-use parts of the old building,” he added. “But that would cost the town more money than to simply build a new one.”

Lukmann did say that plans for two smaller out-buildings on the property will be separated from the RFP for the main building: one of them a cold storage building for Street Department equipment, the other a street-salt storage building. Those two buildings can be constructed on the property without any way encroaching on the footprint of the new facility, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg said.

Non-Conforming Structures

In other business, an ordinance was enacted allowing the owners of legally non-conforming structures to rebuild those structures without first obtaining a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals when said structures “have been partly or completely destroyed or removed by accidental cause, including fire, flood, explosion, or acts of God.”

The ordinance applies only to legally non-conforming structures, defined as those which, while legal when they were originally built, do not now conform to Town Code.

Owners of such structures, when accidentally damaged, may rebuild them under these conditions:

•The structure cannot be repaired or replaced in a manner which makes the structure legally conforming.

•The owner applies for a building permit within three months of the destruction and all necessary construction is completed within six months.

•The replacement structure is placed on the same footprint of the old structure, is not higher than the old structure, retains the same or substantially similar architectural design, and is constructed of similar or upgraded materials.

•The elevation of the lowest floor, including the basement floor, is two feet above the regulatory flood level and all necessary permits are obtained from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The ordinance does not apply to signs. Should a legally non-conforming use cease for six months or longer, there would be the rebuttable presumption that the use has been abandoned and may not be resumed without approval of the BZA.

From the Town Manager

Meanwhile, Town Manager Bernie Doyle reported on his recent activities:

•An agreement with SH/Mind Bend of Valparaiso has been signed for the development of a new municipal website.

•A follow-up last week to September’s open house on the ongoing revision of the Chesterton Comprehensive Plan “went very well,” Doyle said, although he added that he would have liked to see more residents attend.

•Staff has attended the second of five workshops on disaster mitigation mandated of municipalities which want to be eligible for federal funding, in the event of a disaster, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The next meeting, not yet scheduled, will be open to the public.

•Doyle said that right now he is working on getting Building Commissioner Dave Novak his own budget separate from the Town Hall’s.

•And a committee of the Advisory Plan Commission is being created to work on a draft of a building standard ordinance.

Subdivision Costs

In an issue originating with the Advisory Plan Commission, Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann said that he would review whether the town is sufficiently recovering the municipal costs involved in the permitting and inspection of new subdivisions and planned unit development.


Posted 10/27/2009