Chesterton Tribune


Plan Commission hears sign concerns, approves plan change for Urschel land

Back to Front Page





The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission inched forward Thursday in its continuing quest to update the town sign ordinance.

Commission members have talked about the project since last year, and lately have been waiting for input from the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce. Last night, chamber executive director Heather Ennis shared the group’s concerns and recommendations.

After her presentation, it was agreed the chamber’s suggestions would be placed in the next commission-member packets to study for the March 21 meeting.

Member Sig Niepokoj, who’s previously called for the commission to step up its pace in the sign review, said, “Sooner or later, bite the bullet and go paragraph by paragraph, page by page, to get something done.”

Member Fred Owens said the commission has talked about forming a committee to review the sign ordinance. Stone said members could be from the Plan Commission, a Chamber rep, town building commissioner Dave Novak, a town attorney and town manager Bernie Doyle.

Ennis said the local business community wants greater clarity in what the sign rules are, for the town to make them more easily available, to explain the procedure to seek a variance if one is needed, and to be sure the Chamber and real-estate community have updated sign rules to share with prospective business contacts.

She noted that while the town website is great and the overall zoning ordinance is found there including the sign regulations, it still can be complicated to figure out specifically what’s allowed and what isn’t as far as signage.

Chamber members also would appreciate having access to a timetable showing submission deadlines and related responsibilities to request a sign variance, Ennis added, because if one’s not familiar with the petition process it might seem arduous.

She suggested the commission review what variances are most-often sought and, if it’s reasonable, determine whether that’s something that should be allowed in the code. Also, perpendicular blade signs under an awning are hard to see, said Ennis, so it might be helpful if a larger projection is permitted.

As far as existing non-conforming signs, she said businesses would prefer being allowed to make reasonable repairs. In addition, clearer communication is needed regarding signage when a building ownership changes, and businesses on a corner have special needs.

Ennis provided examples of sign regulations based on the existing speed limit for roads that pass a business --- smaller signs for slower speeds and larger signs for higher speeds. She also said having photos of examples of local signs helps explain the types of regulated signage closer to home.

And if a business is located away from a main commercial area, directional signage like that allowed for the South Calumet District can help make it easier to find the business, according to Ennis.

She was provided with a copy of Novak’s suggestions regarding the sign ordinance.

Urschel order adopted

Voting 6-0 with member Jeff Trout absent, the commission concurred that amending Chesterton’s economic development plan to facilitate bringing Urschel Laboratories Inc. to Coffee Creek Center is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.

Commission attorney Charles Parkinson said members were voting both to remove a portion of Coffee Creek’s original development plan and to replace it with a new one that coincides with the term of a bond issue Chesterton is helping Urschel arrange.

The century-old manufacturer of food processing equipment, long located in Valparaiso, is purchasing 160 acres at Coffee Creek; a maximum $25.86 million in economic revenue bonds will finance development of a new Urschel corporate campus including a 350,000 square-foot manufacturing facility on 49 of the acres.

Parkinson said the Plan Commission’s finding next goes to the town’s Redevelopment Commission, one of several boards involved in the process.

The discussion only took a few minutes at the meeting’s conclusion. Urschel representatives were present Thursday but did not comment other than to express their appreciation after the vote.



Posted 2/22/2013