Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Town aiming to crack down on scofflaw builders

Back To Front Page

By KEVIN NEVERS

The Chesterton Building Department is preparing to take aim at scofflaw home builders.

At the Town Council’s meeting Monday night, Interim Building Commissioner Mark O’Dell sought members’ approval to consult with Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann about two issues in particular.

The first: builders who, in lieu of actually completing sodding and other work at a home site by the May 1 deadline, simply renew on behalf of their clients the dirt-cheap temporary occupancy permit issued in the winter. Cost of renewal: $25. “We’ve got a couple of builders on their fifth extension,” O’Dell said.

The second issue: builders who are gaming the system by adding two or three or more inches to the approved first-floor elevation of new homes. There’s not much the Building Department can do about it after the job is done, O’Dell said. “Everybody wants to be higher than the previous guy.”

There’s a solution to both issues, O’Dell told the council: simply eat into a builder’s profit margin.

If instead of $25, it costs $250 or $500 to renew a temporary occupancy permit--or if instead of no fine at all, a builder can get tagged with a $250 or $500 penalty for not building to code--then “we’re going to get some action,” O’Dell said.

Members voted 5-0 to authorize O’Dell to consult with Lukmann. “It’s too bad people don’t follow the parameters given,” said Member Jim Ton, R-1st. “We’ll have to get that on their radar with some heavy leverage.”

Glass Enclosure at

15th Street Facility

In other business, members voted 5-0 to approve an expenditure of around $2,700 to install a glass enclosure at both counters in the public area of the municipal complex at 15th Street.

That vote was contingent on a review of the conflict of interest disclosure form which Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd, has filed, as the work will be done by Trout’s firm, Trout Glass & Mirror.

O’Dell told the council that working in the facility this winter proved a bone-chilling proposition for the employees behind the counters--in service of the Parks and Recreation Department, the Building Department, and the Utility--inasmuch as the bitterly cold air rushed into the public area every time the front doors were opened.

The glass will also serve as a bit of a barrier between the employees and the sometimes angry members of the public who have business with the Town of Chesterton, O’Dell added.

Growing Kids

Meanwhile, members voted unanimously to vacate the platted easements on three parcels at the southwest corner of the intersection of 1100N and 11th Street, the proposed new home of Growing Kids Learning Center, a child-care facility.

Growing Kids Management Corporation (GKMC) had requested the vacation because those three parcels were originally platted in 1984 as a planned unit development which does not meet the company’s building needs. So GKMC wants to start from scratch and treat the three parcels as a single 3.8-acre parcel, necessitating the vacation of the current easements.

At a public hearing which preceded the vote, no one spoke in favor of the vacation and no one spoke in opposition to it.

Then, later in the meeting, members voted once more, again unanimously, to approve a new PUD ordinance endorsed earlier this month by the Advisory Plan Commission. Among other variances, the PUD permits GKMC a monument sign eight feet above grade, two feet higher than allowed under Town Code; a six-foot fence around the playground area, 1.5 feet higher than allowed; and total signage of 170 square feet, 25 more square feet than allowed.

Ethics Reps

Members also voted 5-0 to appoint two Town of Chesterton representatives to the Northwest Indiana Shared Ethics Advisory Commission: a citizen rep, Pat Carlisle; and a municipal rep, Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela.

Westchester-Liberty Trail

The town is nowhere near completing Phase II of the Westchester-Liberty Trail--chiefly because it’s nowhere near starting actual work on it--but O’Dell is already beginning to think about how to fund Phase III, the final stretch of the sidewalk along 1100N from Fifth Street to 100E and then to Rail Road.

Unfortunately, O’Dell announced on Monday, the Indiana Department of Transportation has rejected the town’s application for a $1 million grant for Phase III.

Planning is currently underway on Phase II, the middle stretch along 1100N from the Rosehill Estates subdivision to Fifth Street. The town has received two grants for the work: one from the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission for $405,834; the other from the Lake Michigan Coastal Program for $25,000.

O’Dell has estimated the total cost of Phase II at $862,500.

Cruise Night

Park Superintendent Bruce Mathias reminded folks that Saturday night, June 28, is Chesterton Cruise Night in the Downtown.

Broadway will be closed between South Calumet Road and Third Street for the hot rods and vintage rides to be displayed in all their glory.

 

Posted 6/27/2014