Chesterton Tribune



BZA paperwork too complicated? Members debate need for revision

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Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals member Jim Kowalski thinks it might be too difficult for the average citizen to bring a petition before the BZA.

“To be quite frank and honest, not everybody has the resources to think about hiring (a lawyer),” he said Thursday.

Kowalski asked fellow board members to consider making the required BZA paperwork more user-friendly, and providing petitioners with examples of how documents should be completed.

“We are here to serve the people,” said Kowalski. “If they need a little guidance, for God sakes give it to them.”

He made his remarks after the board approved one petition and continued another with both having been on the agenda multiple times. If paperwork is in order, typically a decision can be reached in two meetings.

Building commissioner Mike Orlich said it’s admirable to want to streamline paperwork but he doesn’t think a lot can be accomplished because some forms like the required findings of fact that must conform to state law can be difficult for petitioners to complete.

BZA member Thomas Browne said he agrees with Kowalski to a point, and it would be helpful if petitions didn’t have to be continued so often.

Discussed was whether properly completed sample forms from previous petitions should be given to petitioners, but member Fred Owens questioned how much guidance the BZA should provide. “We are set up as a quasi-judicial board. We can’t tell them how to fill out their petitions and then rule on them.”

BZA president Rodney Corder said it would be helpful if someone could point out to petitioners chronic issues that the board sees over and over again.

Member Sig Niepokoj said a committee could be named to review the paperwork, but he questioned how much time town staff would have to devote to it.

BZA attorney Julie Paulson said first she needs to clarify if the BZA or another board has the authority to change paperwork requirements. Earlier in the meeting she reminded those present that she’s the BZA attorney, not the petitioner’s, so how much assistance she can provide the public is limited.

Nautica Dr. fence OK’d

Karrie and Ryan Thoma of 2941 Nautica Dr. were granted a unanimous variance to install a 6 foot-tall privacy fence on the side of their home that faces County Road 1000N. Town code limits fence height adjacent to a public right-of-way to a maximum of 4.5 feet.

During public comment no one spoke. Karrie Thoma said having the fence will make the yard safer for their children and pets to play on the corner lot.

Shed decision delayed

The BZA conducted a public hearing but continued until April 24 the request of Jeremy and Sarah Snowdin, who want to reduce a side-yard setback from the required 10 feet to 6 feet. A 10-foot by 12-foot shed was built without a building permit at their 4251 Westwood Lane home encroaching into a drainage/utility easement.

It had been suggested the Snowdins just move the shed. "I was wondering why it couldn’t stay,” she said Thursday. Orlich said only fences can go on an easement if a release is signed agreeing to take it down if access is needed.

If the BZA does grant a variance and the Snowdins want to keep the shed where it is, they would have to ask the Town Council to vacate the easement, which board members said is part of the subdivision’s drainage plan.

During public comment Bozana Morales said she and her family have no problems with granting the variance. “For (Snowdin) to move it would be an injustice for my neighbor because it is a beautiful shed.”

Sarah Snowdin also presented a letter of support from neighbors James and Karen Spanier. No one spoke in opposition.

Snowdin asked if moving the shed 3 feet would be acceptable. Paulson and board members said her paperwork needs to be revised so a decision wasn’t possible Thursday. Snowdin asked that the petition be continued to April.



Posted 2/28/2014




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