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Corrected: Porter BZA orders Johnson Inn work

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Correction: Johnson Inn work

A story on the front page of Tuesday’s edition of the Chesterton Tribune, headlined, “Porter BZA orders Johnson Inn work” contained errors.

That story mischaracterized the findings of a building inspection conducted by Porter Building Commissioner Michael Barry. Barry clarified in an email to the Tribune that the Johnson Inn does not need extensive work unless it is renovated, as is noted in the inspection report. He added that the building is more likely to be torn down than renovated.

“As I stated at the meeting, the building should be secured and the exterior painted, some windows boarded up, and the exterior stairs should be blocked off. To say the buildings needs ‘a lot of work’ is misleading,” Barry wrote.

Barry also noted that he did not recommend professional testing for asbestos, he only reported that “asbestos cannot be identified without a detailed inspection and/or lab analysis” in his report.

The Tribune regrets these errors.

(Posted 10/30/2020)

 

The original story is below:

 

By LILY REX

The Porter Board of Zoning Appeals ordered Carl Dahlin Jr. to secure the old Johnson Inn and plan for exterior improvements at its meeting Wednesday, following the issuance of an unsafe building order in September and a recent inspection of the Inn.

Porter Building Commissioner Michael Barry reported he inspected the Inn with Fire Chief Jay Craig and found no fire hazards from wiring. Barry also said the building’s structure is surprisingly sound, save for the south porch. “I think that is the only thing that would need to be removed if they were going to rehab the building and reuse it,” Barry said.

Barry emphasized that though the outside of the building is “very much in disrepair,” the inside is not. “I want to repeat this,” he said. “It’s in surprisingly good structural shape. There’s no cracks in the concrete floors, no cracks in the basement walls. The walls are solid.”

According to Barry’s report, the inspection was based on visual inspection of a “representative sampling” of structural components. Barry writes in the report that furniture and other storage restricted access to some structural components. He did conclude, according to the report, that the building needs a lot of work including: replacement of roof and windows, new plumbing and heating systems, pest control, mold remediation, and professional testing for asbestos.

Barry issued an unsafe building order for the Inn in September, following resident complaints that the Inn is unsightly and unsafe. The order gave Barry fuel for the new inspection, ordered Dahlin to secure the building against potential intrusion and weather by Dec. 9, and required him to appear before the BZA in October.

Dahlin wasn’t able to attend the meeting Wednesday due to health issues, but his son Chris spoke on his behalf. Chris Dahlin said his father has priced exterior rehab such as window replacement and painting, but has nothing to report about when the work might be done.

When Board member Laura Madigan asked, Chris Dahlin said it was unreasonable for the Inn to be secured by Dec. 9, and that he and his family would appreciate an extension on the order to make exterior improvements.

Board member Jim Eriksson suggested Dahlin should have more time to improve the outside of the Inn due to impending winter weather. “He’s gone through a lot in the last couple years. I don’t want to see it just standing there either, but you know, like I said, right now what can he do on the outside? This is not the time of year to paint,” Eriksson said.

“When it comes to general safety, I think it can be made safe and sealed up now, and they can agree about making it look prettier in the spring,” Madigan said. Board President John Kremke agreed.

Board Attorney Laura Frost said the Board can modify the order without the property owner present at the meeting, as long as they don’t make it more stringent than it originally was.

The Board voted unanimously to modify the order so Dahlin has until July 1, 2021 to complete exterior improvements. Kremke said the July 1 deadline was not generous, but realistic given unpredictable spring weather. Dahlin is still required to secure the building by Dec. 9, 2020.

Barry noted Dahlin is hoping to sell the property. Any new owners will be bound by the requirements to fix up the building’s exterior, according to Frost. She also said the Town can take steps to assess fines or complete the work itself and seek reimbursement if improvements are not made by the deadline.

In other business, the Board conducted a preliminary hearing where David Rodgers is seeking a developmental standards variance to put up a five-foot tall, wrought-iron style fence on the east side of the house at 751 Wood Street. Rodgers said he’d like to have a fenced area for his dogs. The corner lot is triangular, and the house set too far back for Rodgers to have a fenced back yard, Barry said. The Board voted to set Rodgers’ request for public hearing at its November meeting.

 

Posted 10.27.2020

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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