Chesterton Tribune



BZA OKs O'Connor BB gun range

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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 excellent program.”

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 aren’t misused.

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 younger ones.

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 aftermath.

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 revised plan.

Corder said it’s incumbent on the BZA to get the matter resolved in a timely manner.

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 Hiestand.



Posted 6/28/2013