Chesterton Tribune



BZA postpones Bross market decision; more detail sought about the proposal

Back To Front Page


Specifics, not generalizations.

Thatís what Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals members said they want to hear when the Bross Family returns Aug. 28 seeking a use variance to operate an open-air market in a fenced, paved parking lot at the southeast corner of East Morgan Avenue and South Calumet Road.

It will be the fourth meeting at which the variance is discussed.

Meeting Thursday, the BZA continued the petition after hearing concerns voiced by two nearby building owners during a public hearing. No one spoke in support of the variance.

Bross attorney Terry Hiestand and Eric Bross said an open air market is the only logical use for the site because of subsurface drainage structures under a large portion of the lot preventing it from being used for other purposes. They maintained the proposed market has only positives and doesnít have any negatives.

Dennis Byron, who owns properties north of the parking lot and David Baum, who owns/has an interest in parcels west of it, both said they donít want to remonstrate but fear private parking lots for other businesses in the area could become clogged with market patrons if itís approved.

Byron also said, ďIím not too sure about a large garage sale across from me.Ē Parking in the area is limited now, he stressed, and questioned whether the use variance would be limited to Bross ownership or it would carry with the land.

Baum said if done right the market could be an asset to the area, but to say it will have no adverse effect on neighbors isnít the case.

Hiestand said businesses could erect signs restricting parking to their own patrons. He repeatedly cited the European Market at Broadway and Third Street as a successful Saturday street market and said cars park for blocks along town streets there.

BZA member Thomas Browne said the Brosses have had two months to provide specific details but havenít. ďItís very open ended at this point,Ē he said, asking for a business plan. ďItís could be this or could be that, might be this or might be that.Ē

Hiestand replied, ďThis is not a McDonaldís franchise. There is no pattern for this.Ē

Assured Bross, ďThis wonít be a wild rodeo flea market not managed and maintained,Ē adding that if he sees or hears of anything inappropriate, a vendor will be asked to leave. The family indicated a number of items will be prohibited by management including illegal, hazardous, guns, ammunition, tobacco, livestock, small animals, birds and reptiles.

Bross was less firm about the hours and days of operation, and exactly where and how many vendors could be set up on the site. Bross said he anticipated vendor stations might be tents, tables or pick-up truck beds. Addressing Baumís concern about structures being left up overnight, Bross said that wonít happen.

Hiestand pointed to retail merchandise thatís left outside at ACE Hardware and custom golf carts displayed outdoors at LanCam, both immediately south of the Bross lot.

Bross emphasized that how the market should operate will evolve as vendors and patrons demonstrate whatís feasible and desired but it will be safe, organized and monitored by a security camera.

Hiestand said itís impossible to predict what the Bross market will attract but the merchandise likely will be similar to whatís available in several retail stores already in town.

Browne and BZA member Sig Niepokoj questioned whether the parking lot truly is unsuitable for a use already allowed in its Business-1 zoning district. Hiestand said an open-air market isnít specifically prohibited, itís just not an itemized B-1 use.

Town engineer Mark OíDell said the lot is over 20,000 square feet and heís never been shown a drawing that proves it would be unsuitable for B-1 development so it appears to have ample space. He indicated there are 41 allowable B-1 businesses that donít require a use variance for the site.

Bross said it is their belief the market is the only option they have, adding that the drainage system must be protected because it prevents ponding water on the lotís south side at a former telephone building they own thatís now used for climate-controlled storage.

Hiestand repeated the arguments he made in May and June that the Brosses have to generate income off the lot to pay its $3,932 property taxes this year based on a $243,100 assessed value. He also emphasized an open-air market is a neighborhood social event as well as a commercial one that stimulates the local economy and takes place in many other region communities including Valparaiso and Portage.

BZA members Jim Kowalski and Fred Owens were absent Thursday. If the members present had voted on the petition, it would have had to be unanimous for official action to occur.

Legal petitioners seeking the use variance are Elaine Bross, Steven Bross, Nancy Bross and Carolyn Parrigan. 


Posted 7/25/2014