Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton BZA approves petition for escape room in The Factory

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The first of its kind opened in Kyoto, Japan in 2007 and ten years later an “escape room” is making its way to Chesterton.

The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals on Thursday approved 5-0 a petition for a use variance to operate a physical adventure game room on the second floor of The Factory building at 1050 Broadway.

Presenting the petition on behalf of the building owner William Bennett, Robert Ring said he will operate the business as an LLC with his son and daughter and hopes to have the escape room attraction ready for players at the beginning of August.

To escape the room, teams will use hints and clues to find their way out. Digital platforms create fictional scenarios and locations.

Escape rooms have been growing in popularity around the world and more have been opening in the United States. Ring, in his opening statements before a public hearing for the use variance, said he hopes his enterprise will attract more people to Chesterton.

“Everyone we’ve talked to is excited about it. We talked to the (Duneland Chamber of Commerce) who supports us and we are looking forward to being part of the community,” said Ring.

For the layout plans, Ring said there will one room for a single-room game and then two rooms for a double-room game. The games will be monitored by employees and key fobs will be used to let users out if they need to exit the games, he added.

Teams will have a minimum of two people and a maximum of eight. Adult guardians are required for players under age 13. Tentative business hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Ring said the games will last about an hour each. Players would be essentially “booking” times to play the games, he said. Cost would range from $20 to $30 per person which is comparable to other escape rooms in Northwest Indiana, he said.

No one from the public came to speak on the petition, but BZA President Joe Ackerman read into the minutes a letter received from Kevin Murray, owner of Val’s Pizza and Grinders, in support of the business.

“This is a business that has a strong potential to draw people, many who have never been to Chesterton, deeper into the community,” Murray’s letter said. “This will be an asset to the businesses of the western end of the business corridor where there is very little traffic.”

Murray said escape rooms he has seen are enjoyable and have “little in the way that could be seen as off-putting.”

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell requested that Ring submit a revised building map for the permit process and add a condition to the variance that no hazardous materials be used as props, which Ring agreed to.

BZA member Jim Kowalski said he was concerned whether the variance should go to Bennett as the building owner or to the business, adding that there have been times where variances have gone with the property that have “left too many open ends.”

Kowalski summed up his concern as giving the board some control, in case the business is ever sold.

BZA member Richard Riley said that he thinks the use variance shouldn’t be restricted to a person and that the variance should remain as long as the use doesn’t change.

In the end, the board made a condition that if the use for the variance, in this case an escape room, is ever discontinued for at least 30 days, the variance shall terminate.

Board members spoke in favor of the business coming here.

“I think it’s a great idea. They’re very popular,” said member Kim Goldak.

Ring said he hopes to have “focus groups” come test the games in the next week or so and have employees practice resetting the rooms for the next round of players. He says the target date to open is Aug. 1.

Pool wins variance

The BZA also awarded a variance, 5-0, on a request for extra lot coverage from Pierre and Kristine Lauzon to allow an inground pool at 2541 Westwood Ln. S. in Abercrombie Woods. The variance would allow an increase in lot coverage to 36.8 percent, above the 30 percent maximum.

Representing the Lauzon’s, attorney Greg Babcock said the property owner’s association has given permission for the pool to be built contingent on the variance. It will be enclosed by a five-foot tall fence and lights will be diffused by trees.

A neighbor to the north has agreed to allow the Lauzons to connect into his French drain system so there will be no negative effects regarding runoff, Babcock said.

A letter from neighbors Ryan and Molly Egan was read into the minutes giving their support as their children will be able to share the pool.

None of the BZA members said they had any problems with the petition.

Meanwhile, a preliminary hearing for a variance by resident Michael Larson was continued to July as no petition was submitted to build a porch on to his residence.



Posted 6/23/2017





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