Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton BZA mulls Wise Guys signage request

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The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals set one case for public hearing at its meeting Thursday following a discussion of commercial signage.

Thursday, Wilbert Hamstra, Inc. c/o Richard Anderson requested a public hearing on five variances related to commercial signage on property at 1601 S. Calumet Road. Anderson reports that Hamstra Inc. is currently doing interior renovations on the 7,500 square foot space that will soon be a Wise Guys Discount Liquor Store in a building shared with Kathy’s Antiques.

Because the building is set so far back from South Calumet Road and not directly accessible from Ind. 49, Anderson says a lot of bright signage is required to draw in business and “ensure the visibility and viability of this business in the future.”

The first variance Anderson requested is to permit signage in excess of 80 square feet on the east side of the building, the second variance is to permit signage in excess of 130 square feet on the west side of the building, the third variance is to permit a 22-foot freestanding sign when Town code permits 18 feet, the fourth variance is to permit a sign with 101 square feet per side where Town code allows for 60 square feet per side, and the last variance is to permit temporary signs that are in accordance with Town code on the east and west sides of the building.

For the first variance, Anderson said Hamstra Inc. wants to paint a mural on the east exterior wall of the building that will feature Wise Guys colors, orange and purple, and the face that is synonymous with the Wise Guys brand. Anderson argued that the mural doesn’t count as a sign because it is a decoration. However, Board Attorney Julie Paulson chimed in that it counts as a sign if there is a brand image or company name on it. Town Engineer Mark O’Dell said that only the parts of the mural containing such images and text can be counted to avoid deeming the entire wall a sign. The part of the mural containing images and text totals 88 square feet, according to Anderson.

There is already a mural on the south exterior wall of the building, but Anderson said that mural was just a test of the design and will be taken down.

For the freestanding sign, Anderson said Hamstra Inc. wants one that is 22 feet tall instead of 18 feet, as Town code allows. Anderson said the reason for this ask is due to the sign being located in a depression in the ground that puts it four to five feet below the elevation of the road bed for Calumet. “We’re trying to get it up out of the ditch,” he said. Anderson also noted that he will have to correct an error on the original petition. The square footage of the freestanding sign is proposed to be 152 square feet per side--not 101. Anderson also argued that the support pole for the freestanding sign should not be considered part of the sign if it is painted orange. O’Dell responded that he considers it part of the sign because the color would draw people to look at the rest of the sign. Anderson will have to factor the pole into the square footage.

Board member Jim Kolwaski suggested that Hamstra Inc. consider adding a lighted sign to the side of the building rather than constructing a freestanding sign, citing that Walgreen’s had immediate success from the addition of its lighted sign and Dairy Queen made a similar addition. “All you’re gonna do is waste a lot of money and give the sign company a lot of money,” he said. Kolwaski also raised the question, “What do we do with the next guy that wants the same thing?”

Board Vice-president Kim Parrilli Goldak mentioned that a freestanding sign on Ind. 49 won’t be effective for people heading northbound who aren’t intending to turn already, and she mentioned that the request for so much signage at the new Chesterton location is not consistent with other Wise Guys stores. “I look at your other stores, and there’s nowhere near this much signage. They’re done very tastefully. You don’t have any freestanding signs on the other locations.”

Paulson said the findings Anderson provided for the signs would not meet state standards. She advised him to have better findings done. Paulson then suggested that Anderson create a chart showing the signage requested and numbering each sign and that he have a back-up plan if the freestanding sign is not approved.

The Board had no objections to the requests for temporary signs in accordance with Town code. Temporary signs can be up for 30 days.

Anderson must resubmit the petition with new findings, corrected numbers for square footage, and proof of notification to the public by Sept. 10. The Board set the case for a Sept. 27 public hearing in a unanimous vote.

Old Kmart

Goldak referenced a voice of the people letter in the Chesterton Tribune in which a resident expressed the need for a big-box type store in Chesterton, then Goldak brought up the vacant former Kmart on the south side of Indian Boundary Road just east of Ind. 49. Goldak asked if the Town can require the owners of a building that comes vacant to rent it to a new tenant or demolish it within a certain timeframe to motivate development. “I just think about that building, and it’s just sitting there rotting,” she said.

Kolwaski said he recently spoke to a Chesterton resident about the same issue. According to Kolwaski, the resident was “more or less very upset that he could not buy a pair of underwear in this Town.”

Board member Fred Owens reported he recalled the Town looking into such requirements before, but found there is nothing that can be done. Paulson confirmed, “Nothing under Town code would allow you to do that unless there was an unsafe building situation.”

Kolwaski did report he heard that the building is up for sale. “I heard this morning to the extent that the owners are communicating to the powers that be to determine the future of that building. I don’t know who the powers are.”



Posted 8/27/2018





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