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
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.