Chesterton Tribune



Council sign variance approval needed to bring Culver's here

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It appears Culver’s is coming to town, a $2 million investment complete with ButterBurgers and a frozen custard flavor of the day.

Katie Smith of developer Smith Family Hospitality said after Thursday’s meeting of the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission that if the Town Council also gives its approval, the new restaurant hopes to open in late summer.

Culver’s would be located north of Speedway in Coffee Creek Center east of Indiana 49 across from the Indiana Toll Road entrance. Because Coffee Creek was built as a planned unit development with a separate PUD governing ordinance, both the commission and council have to approve variances there.

On a 6-1 vote the Plan Commission forwarded a favorable recommendation that Culver’s be allowed to vary some of the PUD’s sign standards including having a slightly larger monument sign with reader board. Member Thomas Kopko was the lone dissenter.

After members balked at last month’s request for a 13 foot-tall monument sign --- twice as tall as the PUD allows --- Smith attorney David Woodward opened Thursday’s public hearing by offering to reduce the sign to 8 feet 4 inches tall and 6 feet 3 inches wide, the latter a 2-foot reduction from the original width proposed.

Other variances favorably recommended included outdoor seating for 24, directional signage that also displays other wording and two oversize menu boards for the drive-through window.

During public comment no one spoke in favor. Planners did receive a letter from resident Paul Kroeger opposed to a 13-foot tall sign saying it is not necessary and would be detrimental to the aesthetic appeal of the area. An anonymous letter also was received in opposition.

Woodward said the Culver’s corporate office agreed to Chesterton’s request for a size reduction and if approved the new monument sign would be shorter and 35 square feet smaller than the monument sign at the Valparaiso Culver’s restaurant.

The Culver’s representatives present last night, including contractor Christopher McGuire of McCon Building Corp., lobbied the Plan Commission to accept their proposal, in part because of the sloping elevation of the Chesterton site. Smith said they prefer having a masonry monument base surrounded by attractive plantings instead of a reader board at ground level covered by winter snow.

Commission and Town Council member Emerson DeLaney said Speedway’s monument sign is within PUD guidelines and the Bob Evans Restaurant across the street doesn’t even have a monument sign, yet both appear to be thriving. DeLaney also listed several Illinois Culver’s that have either smaller or no monument signs at all.

Kopko said he agreed with DeLaney’s comments, especially when the Chesterton franchise was asking for other sign variances too.

Smith said yes, the Frankfort Culver’s doesn’t have a monument sign, but it ranks 87th of 90 in Illinois Culver’s sales overall.

Woodward also said there’s no evidence that the local Speedway and Bob Evans are in fact performing well for their respective corporations.

DeLaney said Indiana 49 is heavily traveled and future development is coming to the area so visual clutter should be avoided.

Commission member Sig Niepokoj questioned whether Culver’s will be a success or failure based on less than 2 feet of sign height. Woodward said every inch is needed. Smith said motorists won’t notice the sign height but they will be impressed with colorful landscaping. She assured that her corporation wants to be a good neighbor here.

Commission and Town Council member Jeff Trout said it’s better to give up 14 inches to get a landscaped, readable sign because the restaurant will create jobs. Member Fred Owens agreed.

It’s now up to the Town Council for a final decision whether to grant Culver’s requested variances to the Coffee Creek PUD language that governs signs.

Sign changes advance

Planners sent a second favorable recommendation to the Town Council on a 7-0 vote regarding proposed changes to the town’s overall sign ordinance.

If approved, no future distinction would be made between signage regulations for business and industrial zoning districts to streamline the ordinance and make it easier to understand.

Commission attorney Charles Parkinson, who over the past year assisted a committee that reviewed the current sign rules line by line, described the changes. During a public hearing Thursday, no one commented.

Parkinson said definitions in the ordinance were clarified; language was added in the case of dynamic digital signs; restrictions on freestanding, monument and speciality signs were updated; and confusion in the current regulations was cleaned up.

Commission president George Stone said now a single business would be allowed a gross amount of signage whether on the front, side or roof depending on the zoning district and building.

Stone emphasized any existing sign that doesn’t conform to the new ordinance revisions after their adoption would be grandfathered and wouldn’t have to be modified unless a major change was proposed.

Niepokoj, like Stone a member of the sign committee, said an attempt also was made to have better control over signs along Indiana 49 through town.

Town manager Bernie Doyle said a concern has been raised about the percentage of advertising coverage that can be seen in or on business windows. The matter was discussed but Stone suggested it be addressed later apart from the current revisions proposed.

Trout said regulating what’s inside a business is difficult. Doyle said variances granted to CVS and Ace Hardware to use 100 percent of certain window space for advertising was done tastefully, but in some cases what’s being used in windows as advertising looks unprofessional.


Posted 2/21/2014