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.”
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.
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
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.”
the an average of two events per week would be held at the special events
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
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
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.
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.