Chesterton Tribune



Big Chesterton sign changes ahead? Commission to discuss draft January 16

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The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission advanced a major overhaul of the town's sign ordinance to a preliminary hearing Jan. 16.

Changes were in development for one year and discussed in draft form Thursday.

The revision would decrease some allowable signage, increase the height of other signs, allow some to be closer together, incorporate new language for dynamic LED signs, and generally make the ordinance easier to understand.

Once a draft is finalized, a public hearing will be scheduled. Final adoption is up to the Town Council.

If approved, the changes would eliminate the need for certain petitions that often come before the town's Board of Zoning Appeals that considers variances.

The maximum height of freestanding signs would increase from 18 to 24 feet, and freestanding signs could be a minimum 75 feet apart from one another on the same side of the street instead of the current 200 feet minimum.

The new ordinance would give a single business 80 square feet of signage wherever they wanted to use it; multi-unit buildings would be permitted 120 square feet of signage divided among the units.

Plan Commission president George Stone said a big change for the sign ordinance would be doing away with guidelines for separate zoning districts --- in effect having one sign ordinance that works for the entire town.

Special projects such as a planned unit development will continue to require that each PUD has its own guidelines for permitted signage.

Commission attorney Charles Parkinson, Stone and town manager Bernie Doyle said finalizing the draft took so long because sometimes it could take the Sign Committee an hour or more to agree on a paragraph --- or even a word.

Other committee members were interim building commissioner Mike Orlich, town engineer Mark O'Dell, commission and BZA member Sig Niepokoj, and Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce executive director Heather Ennis.

A problem that's arisen in recent years has been the popularity of specialty signs. It was agreed Thursday that vertical "feather" signs on flexible poles would be included in the section dealing with sandwich signs, both limited to use during business hours only.

Parkinson said the definition of sign now allows murals or other artistic expression, and signs in windows won't be regulated.

Commission and council member Emerson DeLaney inquired how long a business has to remove its sign after going out of business; he was told six months. DeLaney asked if a business is required to have a sign. Orlich said no, only that its address be posted.

Commission and BZA member Fred Owens said although some changes appear to be subtle, they need to be studied thoroughly. Said Stone, “We went over (the draft) word for word. I think you need to do that.”

Copies of the sign proposal will be available at the town hall for inspection after Jan. 1. Vote to set the draft for preliminary hearing next month was 6-0 with member Jeff Trout absent.




Posted 12/20/2013