Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton BZA grants Wise Guys sign variances

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The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals approved four variances for signage at the soon-to-open Wise Guys Discount Liquor store at 1601 South Calumet Road at its meeting last week.

Attorney Mark Anderson represented Wilbert Hamstra Inc., the owners of the building, and Merrill Liquors, the tenant operating as Wise Guys.

Anderson said the petitioners required four variances for the signage they want to put up. “We’re worried this building is going to be buried and not be seen by the community,” Anderson said.

The new store will share a building with Kathy’s Antiques. Anderson cited the placement of the building, set back off of South Calumet on a frontage road, as a factor that limits the store’s visibility. “We think one of the main reasons the building has remained vacant is the lack of visibility to the actual building itself,” Anderson continued, saying the company wants a noticeable freestanding sign visible from Ind. 49 that is similar to others nearby.

Anderson said the proposed location for the freestanding sign would join two large billboards to the north and the sign for Dean’s Auto. Those factors could make a Wise Guys sign hard to see if it is equal to or less than the maximum height the Town allows of 18 feet. Two variances relate to the freestanding signÑone is to allow the sign to exceed the maximum height and be 22 feet tall, and the other is to allow 223 square feet is display per side when Town code allows 60 square feet per side.

Anderson cited research from the U.S. Sign Council stating that a freestanding sign should have 312 square feet of display to be most visible to drivers exceeding 50 miles per hour on a complex four-lane road to show that 60 square feet would be inadequate for a sign facing Ind. 49. He also noted that Ind. 49 is higher than the ground where the sign will be placed by six feet. “It is really a 16-foot sign to cars passing by,” he said.

A third variance was to allow 110 square feet of signage, in the form of channel letters, on the east side of the building where Town code allows 80, and a fourth variance was to allow temporary signage of up to 48 square feet on each side of the building, to be removed when the permanent signage goes up. Anderson said the temporary signs were crucial, as the store might open the first week of October.

No one spoke for or against the requests at a public hearing.

BZA Vice-president Kim Goldak commented that the addition of Wise Guys could ‘liven up’ the area of South Calumet. She said the scrutiny related to signage is not meant to be a barrier to business: “Your building looks great, we want you to succeed. We want you to do a great job out there.”

Member Jim Kowalski concurred. “We don’t want to be the ones who say no to something that pushes out business instead of brings it in,” he said. “But I see more and more businesses that want to put signage on buildings. Somewhere along the line it has to be controlled because things could get out of hand. You always worry about the other individual who’s gonna put up something that’s not in the best interest of the community.”

Kowalski also approved of the look of the building, saying he thinks the signage is “in good taste.” Goldak brought up, however, the question of what happens to the variances granted if Wise Guys is so successful that it moves to its own location, like the CVS that was formerly at 1601 S. Calumet and constructed its own building at the intersection of 1100N and Ind. 49.

Anderson responded that retail is tough right now, but “The idea is to stay there as long as we can.” Wise Guys has agreed to a five-year lease in the space.

Member Fred Owens contributed, saying that this case shows how the BZA must look at each case individually. “We’re not advocating that every building on 49 has this, but I agree that when it was CVS, I never knew it was CVS. This is a unique property, and this is a unique situation.”

Owens then suggested that whoever leased the space next could just use the freestanding sign.

Board President Richard Riley agreed. “We make a choice on the geography, so it shouldn’t matter if a new tenant moves in,” he said.

Kowalski did comment on the sign ordinance, implying that it has been a sticking point for businesses looking to come to Chesterton. He also said new subdivisions have to be offset at some point with commercial development. “Every year I see my property taxes going up, and sooner or later, if we don’t establish ourselves more as a community to attract even small business, we’re gonna push people out of this town.”

Riley agreed that a balance of commercial and residential property is important and that the sign ordinance could go for a review. Board Attorney Julie Paulson said the Plan Commission would have to decide if anything is changed, and Riley suggested the Commission look at the sign ordinance as part of its review of the comprehensive plan, slated for the November meeting.



Posted 10/3/2018




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