Board of Zoning Appeals split-voted at its meeting Thursday night to approve
Horizon Bank’s petition for a raft of variances which will enable the bank
to replace an existing monument sign with a taller, larger combination
static/dynamic freestanding sign.
Voting in favor of
the petition--and over the objections of four remonstrators--were Richard
Riley, Jim Kowalski, and Joel Carney.
Voting against the
petition were Joe Ackerman and Fred Owens.
The variances in
question: one to increase the height of the sign to 20’ 6’’, 2’ 6’’ taller
than the maximum height permitted by the Zoning Ordinance; a second to
increase the gross surface area to 180 square feet, 100 square feet more
than the maximum of 80 square feet; a third to place the sign within four
feet of the east lot line, six feet closer than the minimum setback of 10
feet; and a fourth to allow the erection of the freestanding sign in the
first place, since under the Zoning Ordinance as recently amended a business
in a B-2 zone--as the Horizon Bank branch is--is entitled only to a
wall-mounted sign, not to a freestanding sign nor to a monument sign.
Babcock, representing Horizon Bank, told the board that the static top
portion of the sign will bear the Horizon Bank legend, while the
dynamic bottom portion will promote only the financial products of the bank
or community events. The dynamic sign will also comply with the Zoning
Ordinance in terms of maximum lumens and will change every eight seconds as
required and no sooner.
The signage is
needed, Babcock said, to advertise the full range of products and services
available at the branch, since--it turns out--many potential customers
mistakenly believe that only checking and regular banking activities are
The sign needs to
be fully 20 feet in height, moreover, Babcock added, because Ind. 49 is well
above the grade of the bank, located at the northeast corner of Ind. 49 and
Roosevelt Street, and because vegetation in INDOT’s right-of-way would
otherwise obscure it.
At a public hearing
which preceded the vote, no one spoke in favor of the petition. Four
persons, however, spoke in opposition to it.
Council Member Jim Ton, R-1st--formerly a resident of Morgan Park--noted
that when the Ind. 49 Bypass was originally constructed, the zoning of a
small sliver of land on which the Horizon Bank branch is now located was up
for grabs. Morgan Park residents urged the Town Board to zone it R-1.
Instead, it was zoned B-2, Ton said.
property owners and residents have several concerns about any changes that
would alter their quality of life,” Ton said. “Did the bank not know of the
restrictions that existed when they chose the site? Surely they did. When
choosing a bank, don’t items like liquidity, loan policy, and customer
service say more than signs that light up the whole area with messages 24/7?
I think so.”
was Kim Goldak, formerly a member of the BZA. “Horizon Bank has a monument
sign that is perfectly visible from Ind. 49, approximately 10 feet in
height,” she said. “Although I could understand wanting a taller sign, what
I don’t understand is why 18 feet isn’t enough. Please remember that a
freestanding sign isn’t even permitted in your location.”
“Friends, at some
point we need to start restricting these exaggerated demands,” Goldak added.
“Let’s keep Chesterton simple and uncluttered. Ind. 49 is the Gateway to the
for her part, objected to the dynamic portion of the sign. “We do not need a
lighted sign, the result of which will be a nuisance for nearby property
owners and a source of light pollution.”
Kroft expressed her fear that the dynamic portion of the sign will prove a
distraction for motorists southbound on Ind. 49. The intersection of East
Porter Ave. and Ind. 49 is already hazardous enough, she said, without
erecting a brightly lit sign whose message changes every eight seconds. “I’m
very concerned that a sign that attracts more attention from motorists will
distract them to miss the change from yellow to red,” she said. “It would be
nothing but a detriment to the safety of that intersection.”
Ackerman and Fred Owens both questioned the need for a freestanding sign.
Ackerman noted that the Horizon Bank branch has been operating successfully
on that piece of property for nearly 20 years, and that “under the current
ordinance they already have more than they’re allowed.”
Owens said that he
has “no problem seeing the existing monument sign at 10 feet,” and that the
Horizon Bank branch has a built-in competitive advantage--compared to other
local bank branches--in the thousands of motorists who pass it every day on
Ind. 49. “Traffic is not a disadvantage. It’s a benefit. Horizon has that
going for it already. There’s plenty of options Horizon Bank has that do not
involved a large freestanding sign.”
Kowalski, however, chalked up the resistance from Morgan Park residents to
something else. “I think people are afraid of change,” he said, then added
that, should Horizon Bank ever sell the property, “with that B-2 zone you
could have something a lot more unrealistic.”
Riley and Joel Carney stated frankly that they have no problem with the
freestanding sign itself. Rather, they wondered whether in fact there really
is a “practical difficulty” associated with this particular piece of
property which would necessitate the sign. In the end, they concluded that
there is, in the grade differentiation and the angled outline of the lot.
The board then
split-voted 3-2 to grant the Horizon Bank branch’s petition.