Chesterton Tribune



BZA schedules public hearing on special events center at 505 Grant Ave

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A month ago, the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals was puzzling its collective head about what exactly the owners of Preferred Services, Derrick Serianni and Josh Strasburg, meant when they said that they wanted to use the old Pioneer Lumber building at 505 Grant Ave. as a “special events center.”

The Zoning Ordinance’s table of uses includes no such thing, and Serianni’s attorney, Tim Kuiper, was unable to explain to members’ satisfaction how exactly a special events center would be used.

One month later, at Thursday’s meeting, members got their answer. They accordingly voted unanimously to hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, on Serianni’s two petitions: one for a use variance for the special events center; one for signage.

As Serianni explained on Thursday, the proposed uses for the special events center include worship and ministry; fundraising events; seminar, lectures, motivational speakers, workshops, educational training, networking events, and exhibits; markets, weddings, vendor expos, and parties (class reunions, birthdays, graduations, retirements, and dances); and live music and art performances.

Hours of operation: 6 a.m. to midnight, to provide time for unloading and loading and cleaning.

“The 505 Warehouse space has more than adequate square footage to house hundreds of people, sitting (with or without tables) and standing,” Serianni stated in a memo to the board. “There is more than adequate parking that has just been updated and can house well over 150 cars just on our property alone.”

Serianni estimated the an average of two events per week would be held at the special events center.

Should the BZA grants the use variance, Serianni said, he and his partner will comply with State Fire Code requirements on such matters as exits, maximum capacity, and seating layout.

Serianni did say that the building was originally constructed without a fire-prevention sprinkler system and that he is applying for an waiver for a sprinkler system under Chapter 34 of the Indiana Building Code. “That would allow us to put in smoke alarms and extra fire extinguishers instead of putting in an expensive sprinkler system,” he told the board.

Serianni added that he’s applying to the state for a Group A-3 classification for 505 Grant Ave. Uses under an A-3 classification include amusement arcades, community halls, gymnasiums, libraries, and places of worship. “As a reminder, the State Fire Marshal’s Office has ultimate review and approval of what will be allowed to occur within what Chesterton may approve for the use variance,” Serianni stated in his memo. “The Chesterton use variance has to be approved first. Then we submit for the State Fire Marshal’s review and approval.”

“No uses would impact neighbors in adverse manner and we could never compete with the train noise,” Serianni stated. “We have shown that we are committed to Chesterton and to our neighbors in cleaning up and beautifying our property and increasing the values to our neighbors. In fact, we received the Duneland Chamber 2019 Business Renovation Award for such efforts. On a personal note, I live here, work here, play here, and donate here. It’s a great community.”

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell did strike a note of caution and urged members to consider setting certain conditions to the variance, should they be of a mind to grant one, inasmuch as variances attach to the property and not to the use of the property. Among the conditions O’Dell suggested: no cooking in the building, no pyrotechnics, no open flames. There are likely to be others, he added, after he and Associate Town Attorney Julie Paulson consult on the issue.

Because, O’Dell said, should one day Serianni decide to sell the property--and the board has opted not to place conditions on the variance--the new buyer could, for instance, turn the special event center into a restaurant, a permitted use in the I-1 zone.

Serianni, for his part, said that no cooking would be done in the special event center, although events might be catered.

Paulson, for her part, had this piece of advice for Serianni: “I would suggest beefing up your findings and making them more substantial. I can’t say all of them would meet the standard of legal sufficiency if they are challenged.”

Serianni said that he would do so.

In the second petition, Serianni indicated that he is seeking a total of 532.42 square feet of signage. He did not, however, specify how much of a variance from the Zoning Ordinance that number would represent.

Paulson told Serianni that he needs to calculate the actual variance, and that he also needs to file a petition for a second variance, one which would permit him a free-standing sign at the east end of the property.

Serianni said that he would do so.


Posted 8/26/2019





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