Chesterton Tribune


Chesterton BZA questions Indiana 49 signs; hearings set October 25

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First Care Consulting LLC is locating its medical business, which includes Home Helpers, in one third of the available 6,000 square feet of space at 1595 S. Calumet Rd.

The site’s property owner, the Ronald and Virginia Lhotak Revocable Living Trust, is asking the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals for permission to exceed town code when it comes to signage for the new tenant.

BZA members expressed concern Thursday that if they allow three variances for First Care Consulting, how much more signage will future tenants at the same location want.

Home Helpers CEO James R. VanVliet and attorney Greg Babcock said the eventual goal is for the business to take over the entire space at 1595 S. Calumet Rd., but if it doesn’t commitments will be made to allow other tenants to share their 20-foot-tall, two-sided, free-standing sign totalling 196 square feet.

A public hearing on the requests unanimously was set for Oct. 25, as was a second petition brought by property owner Wake Robin Inc. for the Pioneer Lumber building at 1550 Pioneer Trail.

Duneland Community Church, a Chesterton congregation since 1957, wants to purchase the building, renovate it, paint over a Pioneer sign on the building, place its own sign on the south side of the structure, and erect a two-sided monument sign with a surface area of 120 square feet located 5 feet closer to an existing free-standing Pioneer Lumber sign than town code allows.

The church’s monument sign, which would be on the west side of the building facing Indiana 49, needs two variances before it can be constructed. Purchase of the Pioneer building by the church also would require changing the subdivision’s existing plat.

BZA attorney Julie Paulson said the board can either defer action on the variances pending a subdivision by the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission, or the BZA can hear the variance requests and make any sign approvals contingent on a subdivision being granted. That could occur in November with a timely petition being filed.

BZA members Sig Niepokoj and Fred Owens also serve on the Plan Commission.

Niepokoj asked why the church needs a monument sign at the highway. Babcock and pastor Greg Arthur said the church formerly was located at another site, non-members need to find the church for funerals, the building is partially obscured behind WiseWay to the south, and those just passing by might want to visit the church and learn more about it.

BZA member James Kowalski asked if the church buys the Pioneer retail building, what happens to the pole barn and contractor’s yard behind it. Babcock said the whole parcel has been for sale for some time, and that his clients are aware another Business-3 use similar to those already in the area could locate there.

The attorney noted that the church’s purchase of the retail building is contingent on the BZA variances being granted.

Babcock also represented First Care Consulting in the Lhotak building at 1595 S. Calumet Rd. He said an existing sign at the site for Farm Bureau and VanTil Medical would come down. BZA member Thomas Browne welcomed Home Helpers’ VanVliet to Chesterton, but said board members take very seriously what they do for the town. VanVliet said they feel very welcome.

When talk turned to what future tenats might request for signs at the location, Paulson said the BZA must look at each petition on its own merits. She also noted under town code it’s the property owner, not the tenant, who’s asking for the signs. Added Owens, “If they want any more signage, regardless of who it is, they have to come to us.”

One of the variances being sought now is where to put the free-standing sign east of the building facing Indiana 49. Town code requires a 200-foot separation between such signs and it would be less than that to four signs there now. Babcock said all signs are at different elevations and heights so visibility won’t be blocked.

At the meeting’s conclusion Kowalski said he recently was in Florida and was impressed that zoning in the city didn’t allow free-standing pole signs; instead, even major retailers like Kohl’s and Target had monument signs closer to the ground.

Chesterton’s sign ordinance allows a height of 18 feet and all it does is clutter up an area, he added.

Niepokoj said the Plan Commission wants to review the sign ordinance and would be seeking input from the BZA.



Posted 9/28/2012