Chesterton Tribune



BZA grants variance for special events center at 505 Grant Ave

Back To Front Page



The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals has issued a variance to Preferred Services allowing that firm to use its facility at 505 Grant Ave.--the old Pioneer Lumber building--as a “special events center.”

Members voted unanimously at their meeting Thursday night to issue the variance, following a public hearing at which a neighbor and a landlord in the neighborhood expressed concerns about traffic and noise.

Derrick Serianni, a principal of Preferred Services, opened the proceeding by noting that the old Pioneer Lumber building had been “dilapidated” and an “eyesore” before his firm began rehabbing it, to use both as a special events center and as a networking hub. “It’s the perfect combination of entertainment, education, and connecting,” he told the board. “And there’ll be no impact on the neighbors. We can never compete with the train noise.”

Among the events which the facility would host are these, Serianni said: worship and ministry; fundraising events; seminars, lectures, motivational speeches, workshops, educational training, networking events, and exhibits; markets, weddings, vendor expos, and parties (class reunions, birthdays, graduations, retirements, and dances); and live music and art performance.

Hours of operations: 6 a.m. to 12 a.m., allowing for unloading and loading and also for cleaning.

“We have more than adequate parking on site,” Serianni added with space for 150 vehicles.

Serianni also pledged that Preferred Services will comply with State Fire Code requirements on such matters as exits, maximum capacity, and seating layout. He did say that the building was originally constructed without a fire-prevention sprinkler system and that he is applying for a waiver for a sprinkler system under Chapter 34 of the Indiana Building Code. “The building will comply with State Fire Code requirements. Anything they require we will do everything we can to abide by. Of course we will.”

Public Hearing

No one spoke in favor of the use variance at a public hearing which preceded the vote. Two persons spoke against it.

Sandra Friday was perturbed in particular by the fact that, weeks before Serianni even filed his petition for a use variance, the building was used as a venue for a motivational speech. “I’m disturbed by the order of things,” she said. “I would think the variance would come before the first event and grand opening.”

Friday also recalled the AccuCast fire in 2007, which destroyed an industrial building across the street from the old Pioneer Lumber building, at which time she believes that firefighters experienced difficulty in getting their engines in position on Grant Ave. “I wonder if this would be a concern,” she asked the board.

Paul Childress, who rents a property in the 300 block of Wabash Ave., on the other hand, objected to the late hours of operation, until midnight. “That’s a residential area and I have people who rent that property and live in that home,” he said. “Those hours of operation are too late for that location.”

Member Kim Goldak did ask Childress whether his renter complained after the motivational event at the facility in June. Childress said that his renter did not.

In response to the remonstrations, Serianni promised to be a good neighbor. “We will take everyone’s concerns under consideration,” he said. Serianni doubted, however, that events will go all the way to midnight, but he does want cleaning crews to be able to work in the building until 12 a.m.


Goldak asked Town Engineer Mark O’Dell specifically about the fire issue. O’Dell said that Fire Chief John Jarka has expressed no concerns about access.

That was enough for Goldak. “I think (Serianni) has done a good job,” she said. “I’ve walked through it. I think it would be an asset to the town.”

Member Joe Ackerman wanted to know how many events Serianni plans to host. Two a week, Serianni replied, although it may take some time before the facility fully “ramps up.”

As to hours of operation, O’Dell suggested that, perhaps, the special events center be open only until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, as a reasonable concession to the neighbors.

Serianni balked at that suggestion. “I wouldn’t put a limit on it, because we’ve been asked by so many people to use it,” he said.

Member Jim Kowalski, for his part, didn’t want to limit Serianni either. “I want the gentleman to have the opportunity to be successful,” he said. Shortening the hours of operation “would put him at a disadvantage. And if you’re going to talk about noise, there’s a railroad going right by it. That property was so deplorable for so many years, and this gentleman has actually beautified it.”

Member Rich Riley added that the property is zoned I-1. “There are so many uses that could go there without a variance,” he said. “Compared to those, (a special events center) is so minimal.”

Members accordingly voted to grant the variance, with the following conditions:

¥The use shall not be permitted until Serianni receives all required approvals from the State of Indiana for such use or installs a sprinkler system on the property.

¥If no sprinkler system is installed, the following shall not be used in the building: curtains, except flame retardant ones; pyrotechnics; open flames; smoke machines (not without the express approval of the Fire Chief); and ovens and ranges.

¥Occupancy load of the building must be determined by a licensed architect and meet the requirements of Chapter 34 of the Indiana Building Code and all other requirements under Indiana Code.

¥No flammable fuel, including but not limited to gasoline and kerosene, or equipment that is powered by flammable fuel, may be stored in the building.


Members also voted unanimously to grant Preferred Services a second variance, for a total of 535 square feet of signage. Under the Zoning Ordinance, the property is allowed a maximum of 120 square feet of signage.

The signs: free-standing sign, east end, 124 square feet; east end upper wall, 216 square feet; east end, overhead door, 92 square feet; west end, overhead door, 92 square feet; front entry door, 1.17 square feet; west end, service door, 9.25 square feet.

The variance as granted allows no more than 124 square feet for the free-standing sign.

At a public hearing which preceded the vote, no one spoke in favor of the petition. One person did express concern, Lesley Friday, who wondered if the board was granting Serianni permission to install a lighted billboard.

Riley told Friday that Serianni was not asking for permission to build a bigger free-standing sign, just to add more information to it.

“Given the visibility issue, where it’s situated, I think (the signage request) is reasonable,” Ackerman said.

“If you look at the size of the structure, the signage is not abusive,” Goldak concurred. “I think it’s in good taste.”

Preliminary Hearing

In other business, members voted to hold a public hearing at their next meeting, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, on the petition of John Olsen to erect a six foot fence at his property at 1003-05 S. 18th St., one foot from the unimproved alley behind his property.

Under the Zoning Ordinance, six-foot fences may not be constructed any closer than five feet from alley right-of-ways in residential zones.



Posted 9/27/2019




Search This Site:

Custom Search