Board of Zoning Appeals approved three variances for Thomas Centennial Park
boxcar restrooms at its meeting Thursday night.
The Town of
Chesterton petitioned the Board to grant three variances to enable the
construction of the boxcar restrooms planned for Thomas Centennial Park.
Town Engineer Mark O’Dell spoke on behalf of the Park Board at Thursday’s
public hearing on the variances.
The Town must
secure variances through the same procedure citizens use--going before the
BZA, notifying affected residents, and making a case at a public hearing. In
February the Park Board voted to make O’Dell their official agent who
appears before the BZA.
Before the hearing
began, Board President Richard Riley recused himself from deliberations on
the variances. He has been a main driver of the boxcar restroom idea. He
handed the gavel to Vice-President Kim Parrilli-Goldak, who hosted the
public hearing in his place. Associate Town Attorney Julie Paulson also
recused herself from her position as BZA legal counsel, for the purpose of
this meeting, because she normally represents the Park Board and the BZA.
Attorney Greg Babcock presided in her place.
O’Dell said the
Town requires three variances for the restrooms:
-One to have an
accessory structure-- the boxcar restroom and the caboose warming/cooling
station--two feet from a rear lot line when Town Code requires five feet of
clearance. O’Dell said this variance is required because the ADA access ramp
north of the boxcar/caboose would be within two feet of the rear lot line.
-One to locate an
accessory structure 11 inches from a principal structure when Town Code
requires 10 feet of clearance. O’Dell said the roof overhang of the old New
York Central passenger depot, which is now the Duneland Chamber of Commerce,
would come within 11 inches of the rear of the caboose.
-One to allow an
accessory structure to be up to 20 feet in height when Town Code specifies
that it should not exceed 16 feet. O’Dell said this variance is required
because the roof that would cover the ADA access ramp behind the
boxcar/caboose may be as tall as 20 feet.
Town Council member
Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, and resident Patricia Carlisle appeared in support
of the variances. DeLaney noted the importance of putting a boxcar back
where the railway used to be. “Bags used to come off of cars there. We’re
putting cars back there. We’re honoring our heritage,” he said. He also said
the current restroom situation at the park is unsustainable. “We have
struggled, and we continue to struggle, with the porta potties. They do not
have a place in our downtown.” No one spoke against the variances.
commented, “This was a long time coming to get something that would
represent the town,” to which O’Dell responded it has been roughly 10 years.
Parrilli-Goldak added, “I think it brands our town.”
Board member Fred
Owens motioned to close the public hearing and approve the variances. Member
James Kolwaski seconded. The Board approved the variances unanimously with