Chesterton Tribune

Variance to allow climate controlled storage in old GTE building approved

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Members of the Bross family won zoning approval Thursday to offer climate-controlled indoor storage in the former GTE building at 315 S. Calumet Rd.

Erik Bross, who will manage the business, and family attorney Terry Hiestand agreed to a restriction that no hazardous materials or highly flammable items be stored in the nearly 8,000 square-foot, 1936 brick building with10 inch-thick walls.

A list of specifically prohibited items the storage business won’t accept must be submitted to town department heads for review. Town building commissioner Dave Novak suggested having some restrictions, and Hiestand said it’s to the petitioners’ advantage to maintain a strict policy regarding what can be stored.

BZA approval came in the form of a use variance to operate in a Business-1 zone because indoor climate-controlled storage is not listed as an approved use.

Steven Bross was granted the same use variance for indoor storage about five years ago for the immediately adjacent former Smedman’s food store at 325 S. Calumet Rd., but that building was sold and became Hopkin’s Ace Hardware instead, recalled BZA member Jim Kowalski.

This time, member Tom Browne observed, “I don’t see plans. I don’t see anything concrete.”

Erik Bross said eventually the basement, main floor and a second floor, the latter accessed by an elevator, will be dedicated to individual walled units with steel doors. A security system that can be accessed remotely will secure the contents; units will not be available to renters on a 24-hour basis, and units will not have lighting or electricity to discourage their operation as office space.

"We’re looking at all technology we can integrate and building systems we can put into this building,” Bross added.

No outdoor storage will be allowed. Hiestand noted there’s plenty of parking for the business in an on-site lot. Browne asked if indoor fire sprinklers were required; Hiestand said no because of no human occupancy.

During a public hearing on the petition, no one commented either for or against it.

A portion of the hearing was spent debating whether the use variance should be restricted to the Brosses alone or carry with the property, as is usually the case. “I hate to give someone a blank check,” said Kowalski.

Member Sig Niepokoj speculated, “If (the Brosses) decide to sell, what does that second or third owner do down the road if we don’t have control?” BZA president Fred Owens said he could go either way on a limitation yet noted if the family doesn’t do what they propose within one year, the variance expires anyway.

Hiestand said he saw no reason to restrict ownership to the petitioners, and that the storage commitments would be adequate protection for the town. The BZA agreed in a 5-0 vote to approve the use variance.

Hiestand earlier said climate-controlled indoor storage is a use the petitioners hope is in demand. “Like if you have a candle shop and you don’t want your inventory to be in a puddle when you open the door in July.”

Also Thursday, a public hearing was slated for Ryan and Tamilyn Glassman at the June 23 meeting following a preliminary hearing last night. They need a variance to erect a 6 foot-high fence at their 346 Larkin Lane home where the back yard faces Locust Street; fence height adjacent to a public right-of-way is limited to 4.5 feet.

The BZA instructed the Glassmans to seek a second variance after Kowalski observed the fence would be located in the plane of the front yard of the adjacent neighbor’s property.


Posted 5/27/2011