The owners of the historic building located at 955 Waverly Rd. near the
intersection of Oak Hill Road were denied permission by the Porter Board of
Zoning Appeals to use the building as a showroom for custom cabinets.
Petitioners Paul and Valarie Piotrowski of Beverly Shores requested a use
variance be granted to operate their business in a residential area.
Included was a request to permit signage for the business on the site.
Before neighboring residents voiced a handful of remonstrations, the
Piotrowskis’ attorney Greg Babcock gave a timeline description on the
building itself for the board which he compiled with the help of Eva Hopkins
of the Westchester Public Library.
The building originally started off as a one-room school from 1881 when it
was established until 1932. In 1934, it became a community social club.
“It was utilized for square dancing,” said Babcock.
The school board sold off the building in 1968 while dances still continued
until about 1979 when a new owner wanted to use the space to open a store
but the endeavor never came to fruition.
Babcock mentioned the building was built during a time that zoning
regulations were not yet enforced by the state or the town. The state set
zoning statutes for cities and towns around 1947.
The property was sold to the Piotrowskis in 2006 who made several
improvements such as hooking up water and sewer lines to meet residential
standards. Paul Piotrowski said he has been using the building as a
The proposed cabinet showroom would include even more enhancements,
Piotrowski said, and he would keep it maintained on a regular basis while
preserving the historical aspects of the building.
“We want to make this place as cute as a button,” he told the board.
Piotrowski insisted he would not sell any retail at the building and doors
and cabinets sold would be delivered to customers’ addresses. He said he was
willing to work within whatever parameters the board would set regarding the
Babcock later added that 792 square-foot building has never been used as a
residence and is a unique piece of property since it predates the existence
of the town’s zoning codes. He still felt that the business could co-exist
well in the neighborhood allowing them to flourish as seen with the
Schoolhouse Shop on CR 1500N.
However, local neighbors did not exactly share Babcock’s viewpoint.
Local resident Norman Berman presented a petition to the board with
approximately 50 signatures from neighbors saying they oppose the change
from residential to commercial. Berman said he appreciated the intent of
unifying the community but insisted the neighborhood should be a place for
peace and quiet.
Safety was also a key component in the opposition. Berman said the
neighborhood is home to a special needs child and felt additional traffic
could impose an endangerment to the child.
Others like Berman’s wife Pilar Berman and fellow neighbor Paul Baker
complained about the Piotrowski’s use of a large dumpster on the property
saying it is used at all hours of the day. Berman said if Piotrowski wants
to operate a commercial business, he should seek it along U.S. 20 just two
blocks away or in the area where the proposed Gateway to the Dunes will be.
“We want to remain a neighborhood of happy families,” said Baker.
Town attorney Patrick Lyp clarified the petition is not for a rezoning to
commercial, but just to acquire a use variance in a residential district.
All other rules for residential zoning would still apply.
“It would not be a free-for-all for any commercial use,” he said.
Lyp also said if the petition is granted, it would only apply to the
petitioner and would not carry on to any subsequent owners of the property.
Piotrowski said he uses the dumpster to dispose of material from other
projects he handles as a means of cost effectiveness. He said that he is not
violating any town regulations by using the dumpster on the property.
He said the dumpster will be removed once the building is open for business.
Town Planner Jim Mandon said a use variance has to meet five conditions
before it can be granted: will not be injurious to the safety and welfare of
the community; will not adversely affect property value for adjacent
parcels; arises from a condition peculiar to the property; arises from
unnecessary hardship if the zoning ordinance is strictly applied; and does
not interfere with the town’s comprehensive plan.
Believing not all requirements were met in some fashion, a slim majority
voted to deny the petition 3-2. Voting for a motion to deny were BZA members
Elka Nelson, Greg Stinson and Lorain Bell. Voting against the motion were
John Kremke and BZA President Henry Huyser who said he had no problems with
Mandon told the Chesterton Tribune afterwards getting a use variance
is “very tricky” due to the requirements and very rarely are they given by
The Porter Plan Commission board met briefly following the BZA on Wednesday
night to decide how it will move forward with the Gateway to the Dunes
Under the suggestion by member Michelle Bollinger, the board made the
unanimous decision to schedule a special plan commission meeting for March
30 at 7:30 p.m. that will be conducted specifically for the public hearing
of the Gateway plan.
“I think that something like this is that important; it should have its own
separate meeting,” said town engineer and plan commission member Matt Keiser
agreeing to the motion.
Bollinger said she plans to speak with the Northwest Indiana Regional
Development Authority later in April regarding second and third year funding
for the project. The RDA has authorized a $19 million grant for the
development and has given $1.8 million already.
Bollinger said it would be great to show the RDA the progress the town has
made for the plan. Even if the plan does not clear the plan commission or
the town council by the time the RDA meets in April, she said the petition
for further funding will not be affected.
In other business, the plan commission also granted a petition by local
developer Brett Carney to combine two lots at a property in Dunes View Manor
subdivision near the end of First Street. Carney’s plan is to put up a