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
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
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
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
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.