Chesterton Tribune



Gun sales with training simulator approved for The Factory; Wilbar coming down for duplexes

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Ken Price hopes to have his new camouflage gear, ammunition and gun store open in The Factory by March 1.

Thursday night the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals granted two use variances allowing an apparel store and firearms sales at 1050 Broadway in an Industrial-1 zone.

The BZA also approved variances to allow demolition of the former Wilbar Manufacturing site on Park Avenue so it can be replaced with two duplexes, and to permit Shinn Building and Developing Corp. to build a single-family home at Westchester Avenue and Creita Street.

Permission for Price’s business legally was granted to B&B Developers Inc., owner of The Factory.

Town police chief Dave Cincoski said Price will have more security than two Chesterton stores that previously offered firearms and because Price’s store will be less than three blocks from the police station, response time would be fast in the event of a problem.

Price, a former Marine, will hire police and military personnel with firearms experience. He will have a Firearms Training Simulator or FATS with 300 different scenarios ranging from officer down, use of deadly force, personal security and firearm assembly/disassembly, the latter a common cause of injuries, said Price.

The simulator can upload photos of existing homes or businesses to prepare for individualized scenarios “instead of hoping or thinking what you can do,” he said. “I’m bringing this for regular civilians to make them safer.”

Testing on FATS can cover National Rifle Association certification, said Price, and the laser simulator uses firearms tethered to a C02 bottle so an actual recoil can be felt. FATS uses a screen and a typical entertainment sound system, which Price said should not be too loud but he could soundproof the ceiling for other building tenants if necessary.

He noted issuance of his federal permit to sell firearms was awaiting a decision by the BZA after Cincoski signed off on the application.

Price’s attorney, Greg Babcock, said there has been no resistance from The Factory tenants, and the community previously supported a live shooting range and gun sales at now-closed Rangemaster Outfitters.

Camouflage-clad supporters of Price’s request were in the audience. William Hill II and Ricco Semento spoke in favor during a public hearing; no one spoke in opposition. J. Gusic submitted a letter of support.

Hill praised FATS classes saying firearms safety is important because “nobody wants anybody in Chesterton dying from a negligent discharge.” He noted customers coming to Price’s business are likely to stop at local restaurants and pubs while here.

Semento of Kouts said Price’s store will be a good thing for Chesterton and for area hunting/firearms enthusiasts in general.

BZA member Jim Kowalski said if Cincoski has no problem with selling firearms, neither does he. Member Sig Niepokoj asked if Price can require someone to take a FATS class; he replied no. Member Fred Owens said Rangemaster was a good option to have in town. Vote with president Rodney Corder in favor was 4-0; member Thomas Browne was absent.

Babcock advised that a former BZA approved “retail uses” in The Factory in 1994, but the types of uses weren’t spelled out so he wanted to err on the side of caution with the new petitions, especially for the firearms.

Wilbar removal, Shinn OK’d

Also during the nearly three-hour meeting, members unanimously granted property owners Larry Hitz and Heather Harrigan four variances needed to have a demolition contractor remove the vacant 1910 Wilbar building just west of Calumet Road so two townhome duplexes with detached two-car garages can be built on the site.

The parcel is zoned Residential-2 that allows duplexes.

Under comment during a public hearing, Calumet Road neighbor Jack Humphrey asked if his access to an alley behind his home would be impeded; Babcock, who also represented Hitz/Harrigan, said no.

John Robbins of Second Street submitted a letter saying it would not be advisable to upset the density of the area with four families and potentially eight or more cars using the alley. Babcock said the Wilbar site has access to two alleys, and the duplexes will have parking in front of the townhomes and in the garages.

Humphrey and Niepokoj asked about an environmental study done on the former manufacturing site; Humphrey wanted access to a copy.

Babcock said the town has to give adjacent property owners 10-days notice of a planned demolition and the town will receive a copy of the environmental study, but he assured there is no cause for concern. Babcock also noted that removing the building will eliminate run-off problems for an adjacent property owner, and new sidewalks will be installed.

Niepokoj said the variance requests presented a good opportunity to remove a town eyesore, and Corder said approving the petition will demolish “an unused building basically sitting there waiting to fall.”

Shinn was granted two variances tied to construction of a new single-family dwelling in his infill subdivision near older homes. The first variance was to reduce the 15-foot, side-street setback to 8 feet, but Owens voted no in opposition to a second eliminating a sidewalk along the Creita Street side of the Westchester Avenue corner lot.

No one commented during a public hearing. Kowalski said the lot was platted in 1908 and having a two-block Creita sidewalk serves no purpose; Niepokoj agreed. Owens said it would benefit young families. Corder said not having the sidewalk makes it inconvenient, but if he had voted no the petition would have been carried over until the Jan. 23 meeting.

A public hearing for Karrie and Ryan Thoma wasn’t opened Thursday and their petition was carried over to next month by unanimous vote; they seek a variance to install a 6-foot privacy fence on the side of their 2941 Nautica Dr. home that faces County Road 1000N in Abercrombie Woods.

BZA attorney Julie Paulson said notification to all property owners within 300 feet of the lot perimeter didn’t occur. The couple expressed frustration that their questions about the petition went unanswered by the Building Department, and that an original document they submitted for verification with the petition has not been returned.

Said Kowalski, “Someway, somehow we’ll get this resolved.”


Posted 12/27/2013




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