Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton Chamber presents plan for $170,000 welcome sign on Ind 49

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Chesterton-Duneland Chamber of Commerce representatives began Thursday’s meeting asking to construct a 355 square-foot, $170,000 monument welcome sign west of Indiana 49.

They ended the meeting increasing that request to 851 square feet if it becomes necessary when all the double-sided lettering faces are totalled. Four variances from the town’s sign ordinance would be required.

The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals set a March 24 public hearing on the Chamber petition as well as on a separate request to add more signage at the Dairy Queen Grill & Chill, 552 Indian Boundary Road.

In the Chamber’s case, the main sign would be a 7-foot by 14-foot 11-inch LED changeable color sign in the middle of a 20 foot-tall stone structure topped with a 3-foot aluminum arch. Stationary Welcome to Chesterton lettering would be above the LED display and a smaller Chamber logo sign would be below it.

The sign structure would be located generally south of the Vietnam memorial wall on the grounds of the Porter County ambulance station at 600 E. Porter Ave. The new sign would replace a 25-year-old wooden Chamber welcome sign that blew down in a December storm.

The property, zoned Residential-2, is owned by the Porter County Commissioners and attorney Greg Babcock, who brought the Chamber’s petition, said a license agreement will be entered into with the commissioners since it appears none was existing for the previous Chamber sign.

Chamber executive director Heather Ennis said an LED sign is the best opportunity for her group to offer paid advertising space to its 360 members as well as to non-members and community groups to publicize their business/events.

The Chamber had considered having the non-scrolling LED sign face change every 8 seconds, but BZA members said 10 seconds like an existing LED billboard south of the Chamber sign was preferred. Ennis said they would accept such a restriction.

BZA member Thomas Browne asked if Chamber members were polled about using an LED sign, which isn’t allowed in town without a variance.

Chamber president Jim Anton said LED technology offers more flexibility and the Chamber Board of Directors is fully behind it; Ennis said directors and members involved in the project feel the sign is tasteful and they’re supportive.

Babcock said the Chamber took care to have the monument structure itself mirror the style and materials of the signs installed last year by the town Redevelopment Commission for the South Calumet District gateway renovation. Town manager Bernie Doyle said department heads feel the Chamber sign will help Chesterton’s branding effort if some of the details can be worked out.

According to Ennis, “We still want to be the announcement board for the community.”

The previous wooden Chamber sign had 16 medallions on its base representing area organizations and service clubs. After the meeting Ennis said a way to help promote these and similar groups on the LED sign is being discussed. Anton also told the BZA the sign, to be operated from the chamber office, can be programmed to display instant alerts like weather emergencies if needed.

The representatives were asked if perhaps they could omit the lower Chamber logo sign and somehow incorporate the Chamber name on the individual LED signs displayed.

Ennis said, “We didn’t want to take away from the advertisers by cluttering their message. It’s not necessarily about us but since we’re the one making the investment, we wanted our name.”

BZA member Rodney Corder said it appears trees will obscure the view of the south side of the new sign if it’s built perpendicular to Indiana 49. The last thing motorists traveling 50 mph need, he noted, is suddenly to be distracted by coming upon a color LED sign and not knowing what it is.

Larry Yurko of the Landmark Sign Group said it hasn’t been determined yet exactly where the Chamber sign will be placed.

Babcock and BZA member Jim Kowalski both said LED sign technology is an issue the town increasingly will face and the interpretation and restrictions used now will form the basis for future considerations.

Babcock was asked to consult with building commissioner Dave Novak and associate commission attorney Julie Paulson regarding preparation of the Chamber’s petition for the March 24 public hearing. Paulson said it’s up to Novak to interpret the sign ordinance.

Clarification is needed whether the monument part of a sign is considered part of the total sign package. Babcock said petitioners shouldn’t be penalized for wanting to have a pleasing structure instead of just mounting a sign on two poles.

DQ variances advance

Babcock this time representing Dairy Queen owners Scott and Michelle Pendleton presented their request for five variances needed to add two Orange Julius signs on the building and a smaller one on the menu board.

Dairy Queen recently acquired the Orange Julius franchise and is offering it to select DQ stores. Scott Pendleton said the sign sizes are dictated by DQ, but he will investigate whether they can be reduced.

Babcock said the three new signs would require a variance adding 58.45 square feet more in signage. BZA members noted the existing DQ signs already exceed town code under variances previously granted in 2008 when the restaurant opened.

Six months and over

Ending consideration of a petition that began in August, 2010 the BZA voted 5-0 Thursday granting a variance to Tom and Jeanette Tugman to construct a two-car garage at 303 Michigan Ave. A public hearing was opened in December.

The couple had sought a three-car garage and needed permission to allow a higher percentage of the lot to be covered with structures. Original garages on the property were damaged in the 2009 tornado.

BZA president Fred Owens told Tom Tugman the 20-foot by 24-foot garage is to be measured from exterior eave overhang to eave overhang, not interior wall to wall.



Posted 2/25/2011