Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton BZA rejects pawn shop

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There will be no pawn shop in Chesterton.

At its meeting Tuesday night the Board of Zoning Appeals voted 5-0 to deny the petition of Complete Control Systems Inc. for a use variance which would have permitted the operation of a pawn shop at 100 Brown Ave., the former site of Childress Industrial Controls.

The site is zoned I-1. The Zoning Ordinance makes no provision for a pawn shop and a use variance would have been needed to open one.

There was no discussion but Member Jim Kowalski read the findings of fact on which the denial was based.

Among other things, those findings determined that a pawn shop would be injurious to the public safety and welfare of the community partially because the petitioner—Cheryl Bonin was acting as agent for Complete Control Systems—did not offer evidence indicating that a pawn shop would not be injurious. But a pawn shop would also be injurious, Kowalski stated, because it would generate more traffic in the neighborhood than other permitted industrial uses.

In addition, Bonin did not produce evidence that the use and value of surrounding property would not be adversely affected, Kowalski stated, while on the contrary the board found that it would be so adversely affected by the generation of traffic far in excess of that generated by other permitted industrial uses.

Furthermore, Kowalski stated, Bonin failed to show a need for the variance arising from some peculiar condition of the property or that a strict interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance would prove a hardship in the use of that property for permitted industrial uses. Indeed, Kowalski stated, there are some 40 other permitted industrial uses which could allow “a reasonable economic return to the owner.”

If there is any hardship in inducing a potential tenant to lease space at the building, Kowalski added, it’s a “self-created one” because the owner of the property has not properly maintained it.

Finally, Kowalski stated, approval of the variance would be at odds with the specific economic-development goals articulated by the Chesterton Comprehensive Plan, inasmuch as it not only would be an inharmonious use in the neighborhood but would reduce the town’s inventory of industrially zoned property,

Neighbors had remonstrated vociferously against the petition at a public hearing in November.


In other business, the board voted 5-0 to schedule a public hearing at its next meeting, Jan. 28, on the petition of Chesterton First United Methodist Church for a variance which would permit the installation of four signs on the church with a total surface area of 31.5 square feet.

Under the Zoning Ordinance, attorney Greg Babcock noted, representing the church, there is no total allowable number of signs but there is a total allowable surface area of 45 square feet, the whole of which is currently in use.

Three of the signs would be installed on the north entrance of the church, one on the west entrance.

Babcock told the board that a survey of new members has indicated that a need exists at the church to direct visitors more plainly to areas within the church. “Where do you go when you hit the back door?” as he put it.

The church does host public events, Babcock noted.

Southfield Brick LLC

Members also voted 5-0 to schedule a public hearing at their next meeting on the petition of Southfield Brick LLC—the owner of Curly Masonry at 1631 Pioneer Trail—for a use variance which would permit the manufacture of dry cast stone in a B-3 zone.

Southfield Brick has purchased Accucast industries—currently operating on Grant Ave. near the Street Department in an I-1 zone—and is interested in moving the manufacture into the southernmost of its two buildings at 1631 Pioneer Trail.

Babcock, also representing Southfield Brick, said that the building in question is currently underutilized and would be “an excellent location” for the operation.

Babcock noted that the dry cast stone is an all-natural product, all manufacturing activities would be inside the building, there would be neither noise nor odor, and that there is ample space on site for the loading and unloading of trucks so as not to interfere with traffic on Pioneer Trail.

It’s also a wholesale, not a retail, operation, Babcock said, which sells to outlets in Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In response to a query from Member Sig Niepokoj, Frank Paganis of Southfield Brick said that there is “very little” dust involved in the operation and that dust collectors are used prior to the addition of water. It’s a natural curing process with no kilns or other heat sources used, he added, and all work is done by hand.

Kowalski did ask about the cause of the fire which destroyed the Accucast Industries facility on Grant Ave. a couple of years ago. The cause of the fire was undetermined, Paganis replied, but a full investigation by the Indiana Fire Marshal cleared the company of any “wrongdoing.”

Farewell from Kowalski

Kowalski did take a moment at the end of the meeting to bid his colleagues on the board farewell, after many years of service. “I contemplated this decision for two years,” he said. “I told myself that a good reason to step down is that it’s good for change. It’s hard for a community to move forward when some of use who’ve been here forever stay around. It keeps people from stepping up. New people have to step forward and have the opportunity to serve. It’s time for someone else to take up this chair.”

“We’ve appreciated your help, your wealth of knowledge, and your mentoring,” Member Kim Goldak said.

Meanwhile, Member Brandon Kroft also said farewell. “It’s been a pleasure serving with you. I had a great time serving on this board. I have no regrets and hope I can find a way to contribute in the future.”


Posted 12/23/2009