Four residents of
the Pere-Marquette subdivision spoke at last night’s Chesterton Board of
Zoning Appeals meeting against the proposed expansion of a storage unit
business on Brown Avenue.
residents wrote letters in opposition.
represented by Attorney Greg Babcock, petitioned the BZA for permission to
construct four additional principle structures on his 3.28-acre property at
100 Brown Avenue, zoned Light Industrial. The four proposed structures would
contain 94 storage units. Neal also wants the front yard setback on two of
the buildings reduced from 30 feet to 19 feet.
Neal said he has
been in the storage business in Duneland for 15 years, and bought the
property in question last year. He already has a 25,000 square foot
building, where there are existing storage units, and tenants on the
property who do other work permitted in industrial zones, varying from auto
and furnace repair to a flooring store across Brown Avenue from George’s
Neal said he’s been
fixing up the inside of the buildings on the property over the winter and
plans to put up to $3,000 toward improving the outside of the main building
now that weather allows. Babcock pointed out that Neal cleaned up a lot of
items that were left outside by the previous owner.
stormwater from the site will drain into a swale on the northeast corner of
the property, potentially though an underground piping system. “When the
time comes, we’ll work with the town to keep water flowing in the right
direction,” Babcock said.
that Town Code allows for this kind of development in Light Industrial zones
where a company’s main office is on the property. If Neal had a main office
in one of the buildings on the property in question, the four proposed
buildings would be allowed because they would be considered accessory
structures. The only reason Neal had to come before the BZA is because his
main office is located on Wabash Avenue, according to Babcock.
The public hearing
began with Pat Scott, who had multiple concerns with the proposed additions.
First, Scott said she counted 94 storage units already on the property, and
thinks doubling the number of units is excessive.
suggested a traffic impact study should be done on the areas because the
Pere-Marquette subdivision becomes a target for people trying to beat the
train line on Calumet Road, despite having no outlet, and parking can be an
issue when there are events in the neighborhood, such as George’s pancake
breakfasts. Finally, Scott said drainage is an issue for many homes in the
subdivision, and this development could worsen the issues that she and her
neighbors already have with occasional flooding.
“I’m afraid it’s
really going to impact our value,” Scott continued. “No more industrial down
there. There’s not enough room for it.”
Next up, Ken Wilkie
said the condition of the property has attracted crime, and he and some of
his neighbors have experienced thefts. Wilkie also said the property is
unsightly, and he planted a line of trees in his yard so he wouldn’t have to
see it. Wilkie said he was concerned about stormwater from the development
affecting the drainage ditch on his property.
seconded the concerns about stormwater and traffic. “I also am very
concerned about the value of my property, as well as the traffic. There is a
lot of traffic in that area,” Lauer said.
Ashley Koney was
also concerned the new development would worsen existing stormwater issues
on her property.
and Christine Roberts also wrote letters in opposition, which
Clerk-treasurer Stephanie Kuziela read aloud for the record. Cunningham and
Roberts made similar points about being concerned for safety and property
values in the neighborhood. They both said the development would add to
already high saturation levels.
Babcock said a storage unit business, where people come infrequently to
remove or add items, doesn’t generate as much traffic as some other
businesses that could operate in Light Industrial zones, such as beauty
shops or bowling alleys. He added that there are no plans to construct
additional road cuts or driveways onto the property and reiterated that Code
allows this kind of development in Light Industrial zones.
As for stormwater,
Babcock said he has talked to Town Engineer Mark O’Dell about containing the
site’s water in the northeast corner. “We are not using the detention area
that would be part of the residences,” Babcock said. “We’ll be having swales
or underground water piping to take our water to our site. We’re not allowed
to increase drainage, as a matter of fact we have to capture it and move
Richard Riley said the following conditions have been proposed for the
petition, if it is approved: a final site plan and final engineering
drawings must be approved by O’Dell and other relevant Town department
heads, the petitioner must obtain all required state and local permits, no
driveway cuts will be allowed, and the stormwater infrastructure for the
proposed development must meet all Town standards, including MS4 standards.
Babcock had no
objections to those conditions.
Board member Fred
Owens asked Neal if he planned to fence the property. Neal said he had no
plans to build a fence on the west side, where homes abut the site, because
some of the homeowners there have fences or tree lines.
Neal said he does
plan to fence the north and east sides of the property to help with
security. He’ll be installing more lights on the property for the same
Riley asked if Neal
has certain hours of operation. Neal said he doesn’t, but he discourages
people from visiting their storage units after dark by not providing
internal lights in the units. Neal said most of his renters visit their
units during daylight hours.
Owens, for his
part, said the proposed buildings would be too close to the houses, with
only 65 feet of clearance between. “My main concern is the location of the
buildings in relation the houses. It’s very close. That’s one of my main
concerns and my things that I can’t get over on this petition,” Owens said.
“I think it’s too much, and a privacy fence isn’t going to convince me.”
Riley responded to
renewed concerns from the homeowners in the audience about stormwater and
density. “You have to recognize that there are many uses that can go in
there. They can have noise, machinery. They can operate round-the-clock,”
Riley also reminded
the residents of what Babcock said, the case is only before the BZA because
Neal’s main office isn’t on the Brown Avenue site. “When all is said and
done, you’re getting a benefit from going through this process through
“I know it’s a lot
of units. I don’t think that it is an intense use where all the traffic
comes at one time, and I think what he says about lights at night is
probably true,” Riley said.
The residents said
they feel the Town has let them down in the past, including with ongoing
stormwater issues and complaints about the former owner of the Brown Avenue
property that were never addressed. Riley responded that O’Dell has
identified the water issues in the proposed development, and Neal would be
required to abide by the Town’s conditions if his development is approved.
Riley and Board
member Jim Kowalski pointed out that Chesterton didn’t have a Town Engineer
when the Pere-Marquette subdivision was built around 2001. “We have no
control over what’s been done in the past, but I can tell you that these
issues now are getting far more attention than they ever have in the past,”
Riley said, adding that that last thing the Town wants to do is create
The Board asked
Babcock if Neal was willing to make any changes. Babcock said Neal is
amendable to installing a combination of opaque fencing and trees on the
west side of the site to create a buffer for the concerned property owners,
and he plans to improve the property with landscaping. Babcock said Neal was
also amendable to maintaining the required front yard setbacks by
eliminating two units from the plan.
At the advice of
Board Attorney Julie Paulson, the Board opted to continue the public hearing
to its next meeting, April 25. “I think these conditions are significantly
complex enough that we need to sit down separately so we’re not cobbling
together something that nobody intended,” Paulson said.