Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously denied a use variance that would have
allowed the Bross Family to operate an open-air market.
petitionersí attorney got off a parting shot in his comments before the
actual vote Thursday.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.