Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton BZA votes down Bross outdoor market

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The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously denied a use variance that would have allowed the Bross Family to operate an open-air market.

But the petitionersí attorney got off a parting shot in his comments before the actual vote Thursday.

Counsel Terry Hiestand said Chesterton has developed a reputation for ineffectual planning efforts that have cost it jobs and dollars to protect existing businesses that should perish if theyíre not adaptable to modern realities.

BZA member Fred Owens read a lengthy list of reasons, required by law, as the basis for the denial. Thursday was the fifth month the petition was discussed by the board.

After the meeting co-petitioner Elaine Bross commented, ďLetís say Iím not surprised. After 70 years in town Iím not surprised what this town has come to.Ē

The Brosses had proposed Smedmanís Marketplace as 34, 10-foot by 10-foot spaces for booths or sales trucks at the southeast corner of East Morgan Avenue and South Calumet Road with Saturday and Sunday sales, and possibly other days, from the first Saturday in May to the third one in October.

The market had been opposed by representatives of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce, which operates its outdoor European Market on summer weekends four blocks west of the Bross site.

Hiestand told the board that market is not as exclusive as had been portrayed; he noted other town businesses occasionally have operated open-air markets in their parking lots, and the town allows downtown festivals that interfere with traffic and cause parking problems.

The BZA determined the Bross market could compromise public safety because only a short list of items that couldnít be sold --- including hazardous and illegal items, guns, ammunition, tobacco, livestock, small animals, birds and reptiles --- was submitted leaving other objectionable items unregulated.

Remonstrators at a public hearing in July expressed concern that market shoppers would park in their nearby private business lots because of a lack of public parking in the area; Owens said the concern was valid, especially because a market would generate more traffic than a typical business.

Other uses available

An open-air market isnít specifically prohibited in the zoning ordinance, said Hiestand, but neither was it set out as an approved use in a Business-1 zone necessitating the need for a use variance.

Hiestand said the townís table of acceptable business uses is inadequate, which unnecessarily discourages people from starting one --- especially if they donít want to face five BZA meetings seeking permission. Even if the petition had been approved, he noted, the Brosses would have missed the entire first season awaiting BZA permission.

Reading from the boardís findings, Owens said Hiestandís contention that the site itself presents a peculiar condition justifying a use variance falls short.

Owens explained the fact the entire lot is paved and fenced was of the familyís own doing. And even if there is an underground drainage system for an adjacent parcel under a portion of the over 20,000 square-foot site, he continued, the town engineer determined sufficient area remains to construct one or more buildings where an acceptable business could be conducted.

No hardship demonstrated

The argument that the petitioner needed a use variance because the paved lot is heavily taxed also was rejected by the BZA. In his opening comments Thursday, Hiestand acknowledged the lotís assessed valuation was $100,000 less than he originally stated because they didnít know a pending appeal had been partially granted.

The final BZA justification for its decision showed granting the variance would interfere with the townís comprehensive plan because an open-air market creates no permanent building or development that would benefit the town.

BZA members posed no questions nor made any comments prior to their vote but had raised several concerns over the lengthy review period; a recurring observation was that not enough specifics were being provided about the proposed market.

After the decision Hiestand told the Chesterton Tribune, ďThis town has had a golden opportunity to do economic development and theyíve fumbled away a Kohlís and a Target. Developers talk to each other and theyíve put a big black X on Chesterton and thatís cost us economic development and jobs.Ē

Hiestand again retained a court reporter to prepare a transcript of last nightís session. When asked if the family plans to appeal the BZA decision, Elaine Bross said she didnít know whether one will be filed.

In other business, the BZA continued a scheduled public hearing to Oct. 23 for Christopher Cichocki and Sarah Cuevas-Cichocki, who seek a variance to increase the height of a fence along County Road 1050N from 4.5 feet to 6 feet at 2342 Larchwood Ave. in Westwood Manor.

BZA attorney Julie Paulson determined the hearing couldnít go forward last night because proof wasnít supplied that all of the neighbors had been notified.



Posted 9/26/2014




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