Chesterton Tribune



BZA continues hearing on Bell Manor use variance

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A preliminary hearing on a petition for a use variance to permit the residential use of the third floor of the Bell Manor building--zoned B-2--has been continued.

At its meeting Thursday night, the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously, at the request of petitioner BenLew Enterprises LLC, to continue the matter to its next meeting, Thursday, Jan. 24.

The Bell Manor building is located at 442 N. Calumet Road in a B-2 zone. Brian Lewandowski of BenLew told the board that he and his partner acquired the building in late September. Although they don’t know exactly how the third floor has been used in the past, three bathrooms there suggest that at some point “it looks like it was set up for residential,” he said.

As it happens, members were surprised to learn that Bell Manor is a three-story building. From the front it appears to be two-story, Lewandowski noted, but “there’s a walk-out basement” in the rear.

Some minor structural alterations and additions would need to be made should BenLew pursue a residential use, Lewandowski said. “There are some egress issues. We’d have to change some windows for egress. And put in smoke detectors.”

But, he added, “I think it’s marketable. People like smaller now. And it would be affordable.”

Lewandowski did say that a possible tenant for the space has emerged who’s interested in using it for “one-on-one tutoring.” On the other hand, he and his partner seemed unsure whether in fact they want to go through the process of obtaining the use variance.

Members said that they’d be amenable to granting a continuance of the preliminary hearing to their January meeting to give BenLew time to think about it as well as to produce some necessary documents to support the petition if, in the end, they want the variance. In particular Rich Riley wants to see drawings of the proposed window alterations.

Associate Town Attorney Julie Paulson also urged BenLew to attend a department heads meeting to get input from staff on the feasibility of a residential use in Bell Manor. She warned Lewandowski and his partner, however, that the board won’t be of a mind to grant continuances “in perpetuity.”


Posted 12/28/2018




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