The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals approved but put conditions on the
use of a new BB-gun shooting range at O’Connor Martial Arts, 534 Broadway.
BZA president Rodney Corder, Jim Kowalski and Fred Owens voted yes; members
Sig Niepokoj and Tom Browne were absent Thursday.
The only person to comment during a public hearing on O’Connor’s needed use
variance to operate an air-gun educational range was Thomas Biedron, who was
in the room for his own zoning petition heard later. Biedron clarified that
the range would be on the ground floor of the building and said he’s in
favor of a handicapped-accessible marksmanship range in town.
After the meeting Brian Keating of Porter, who will operate the range, said
he hopes to have it open Aug. 1. The range will be separated from and have
its own entrance at the adjacent martial arts school, and will be used for
both instruction and competition shooting.
Keating told the BZA the closest such range he could find was in Ohio so
there definitely is a need in this area.
Conditions placed on the board’s approval at the suggestion of Owens were
that the granted variance stays with O’Connor and is not transferrable with
the property; a parental waiver must be signed for children under age 18 to
shoot at the range; and its operator must hold a National Rifle Association
Level 1 air-rifle instruction certification, which Keating said he has.
Owens said he’s familiar with the NRA youth-marksmanship discipline and
guidelines through Boy Scouts and “it’s a quite comprehensive program, an
Town manager Bernie Doyle, a former federal officer, agreed guidelines are
available to promote the safe operation of BB guns. Interim building
commissioner Mike Orlich said he’s not aware of specific town regulations
for shooting ranges, which aren’t permitted in any zone, but the Police
Department should be consulted.
Keating said he will have full oversight of all five shooting lanes at all
times, there will be a 4-foot separation between lanes, and he will quiz
children on basic safety rules before they shoot.
Corder asked if there’s any evidence that training reduces injuries; Keating
said a better foundation in gun use promotes safety and values so guns
The longest discussion was over how young a child could be to use the range.
Said Kowalski, “My biggest concern is safety, especially with small
children; there has to be supervision.” Keating said he anticipated the
youngest children there being age 5-6 but he didn’t want to disqualify
Three-year-olds shooting a BB gun? asked Kowalski. Even carnival rides have
height limits, he noted. Keating said he doesn’t expect to see it but if a
parent brings that child, Keating himself would supervise the shooting.
Owens said he’d rather see supervised instruction in a controlled situation
than children shooting air rifles in their back yards. Orlich said one
federal agency considers ages 8 to 18 the intended range for BB-gun use.
O’Connor said he requires parental waivers for children to participate in
martial arts and some start at age 3 or 4. Kowalski said he’s heard O’Connor
does a good job with the children at his school so Kowalski feels good that
O’Connor will be involved with Keating’s program.
July 3 special meeting set
Citing a medical necessity, the BZA voted 3-0 to set a special meeting for
Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to continue Thursday’s public hearing for Thomas
Biedron and Jane Biedron; to waive the customary special-meeting fee; and to
waive the 17-day paperwork submission deadline.
Biedron is a paraplegic and has been medically prescribed an aqua-therapy
pool for badly needed aerobic and rehabilitative exercise; he said his
health is deteriorating without it. Pool construction requires an addition
to his 1540 Bunker Dr. home.
The couple have been trying for several months to secure a building permit,
BZA approval to build within a setback and permission from the Town Council
to encroach into a utility easement/drainage swale for the 20-foot by
12-foot addition. The council wasn’t able to reach a decision Monday because
town department heads were busy dealing with a severe thunderstorm’s
Biedron since has offered to move the addition from the north side of his
home to the rear yard away from the town’s easement. A setback variance
still would be required. No comment was heard at last night’s public hearing
on the side-yard variance, and comment will be taken again July 3 on the
Corder said it’s incumbent on the BZA to get the matter resolved in a timely
Quality Inn sign OK’d
Owner Neil Patel has opened a fully renovated Quality Inn east of Indiana 49
where the former Super 8 on Council Drive was located, but without a sign
the public doesn’t know that, the BZA was told.
Members voted unanimously granting three variances to Agni Hospitality Inc.
to replace a Quality Inn sign on the 34-foot existing pole. The new sign
will be the same size as the previous one, which exceeded town code.
Patel initially was granted a town building permit and was ready to erect
the new sign, but the permit was rescinded when the need for variances
became apparent. No comment was heard during a public hearing; two property
owners had forwarded comments but not opposition, said Patel attorney Terry