Chesterton Tribune


Plan Commission to review Urschel Labs plan

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The Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission will conduct a special 6:30 p.m. meeting Feb. 4 to consider an amendment to the town’s economic-development area plan that would allow Urschel Laboratories to locate on 160 acres at Coffee Creek Center.

Additional Plan Commission approvals will be needed at a later date for the far-reaching project that is being hailed by town officials and local business leaders as a game change for Chesterton.

At this time the commission only needs to consider the plan amendment as it relates to the town’s Economic Development Commission issuing up to $25.86 million in tax-exempt bonds, which Urschel will purchase and pay off.

Urschel long has been located in Valparaiso, but company officials wanted more room for future expansion yet near enough so as not to disrupt the lives of its local employees.

In other business Thursday, Plan Commission members began to draft proposed amendments to the sign ordinance, especially in Business-1 and 2 zoning districts. Nothing will be finalized until the commission hears from the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce, whose representative is likely to give input at the Feb. 21 meeting.

Building commissioner Dave Novak said there’s apparent confusion that temporary signs are allowed for a maximum 30 days total per year. But with the popularity of inflatables, feather signs (narrow fabric affixed to tall, rigid tubing) and other temporary advertising displays, town engineer Mark O’Dell said maybe 60 days per year is more reasonable.

Member Tom Kopko reminded, “Just because (businesses) do it doesn’t have to mean they can. It’s because we let them.”

Member Fred Owens suggested possibly having business representatives pay a small fee and register with the Building Department when they put up a temporary sign; that way it should be easier to track how long one’s been up and whether other signs already are in place

Commission attorney Charles Parkinson said Novak will have a list 20 pages long. “Do you consider this possible to track? You’re going to open the flood gates on temporary signage.”

Owens and others said maybe it would help if there were a better definition of temporary signage. Commission secretary Gail Murawski said some merchants may see flags and feather signs as merely eye-catchers and not really signs.

Newly elected 2013 commission president George Stone said as far as two-sided, sandwich-board signs often located on a sidewalk downtown, just one sign should be allowed per business structure per day, not one per address because several businesses could be housed under different addresses in one building. It was noted sandwich signs should be displayed only during business hours.

Many requests for advertising signs come before the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals seeking to exceed the 18-foot height limit for free-standing signs as well as the r200-foot separation between signs.

Owens, who also sits on the BZA, said perhaps the sign ordinance might be changed to allow a larger advertising area if the business owner chooses to install a shorter monument sign. “This is our chance to do some things to push it toward monuments.”

Business uses allowed in some commercial districts also are getting a second look. Stone said every conceivable business can’t be listed, but more consultant and IT services could be listed as their popularity grows. Commission member Jeff Trout said you don’t want to cover every use because some still need to be scrutinized for the town to maintain control.

The meeting opened with Kopko being elected vice-president under annual reorganization. Member Emerson DeLaney was absent.

Also last night, the commission set Jan. 23 at 8:30 a.m. for a Plat Committee meeting to hear a request that one acre on 23rd Street be subdivided into two lots. Stone, commission member Sig Niepokoj and O’Dell are the Plat Committee members.



Posted 1/18/2013