Chesterton Tribune



Neal withdraws BZA petition; but plans to put up storage buildings anyway

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Richard Neal has formally withdrawn his petition before the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals seeking three variances to construct four storage buildings on his property at 100 Brown Ave.

But he’s going to put the buildings up anyway.

At Thursday night’s meeting of the BZA, Secretary Gail Murawski read into the record a letter dated April 12 and written by Neal’s attorney, Greg Babcock, notifying the board of his client’s decision to withdraw his petition.

Instead, Neal now plans to establish an office on site in the principal structure on the property. That office “will have the same characteristics as found in the other six storage companies” in Chesterton, that is, will have “signage, phone number, and drop box,” Babcock stated.

Putting an office on site at 100 Brown Ave. obviates the need for the crucial variance--the one to permit the construction of four additional principal structures on the property--because under the Zoning Ordinance those four buildings would now be considered permissible accessory structures in no need of a variance.

In addition, Neal has tweaked his design of the two front storage buildings, eliminating three units from each and in doing so eliminating the need as well for a second variance, the one to reduce the minimum frontyard setback. And he’s reduced the width of the southwest storage building, thereby precluding the need for a third variance, the one to reduce the minimum sideyard setback.

Babcock stated in his letter that Neal has also eliminated from his design the first two units on the northwest storage building. “That will give the customers the ability to travel south along the west side and have 34 feet of width as they exit east toward the existing drive,” Babcock noted.

“The board should note that there is an existing six-foot fence along lots 4 and 5 of Pere Marquette Cottages between their rear yards and the proposed building on the northwest corner,” Babcock added. “Additionally, there is a heavy tree line along the north and east of Lot 3 in said subdivision which does have a screening ability. Finally, the southwest building will have its doors facing to the east and therefore the area from the edge of the building west will still remain a grassy area. Lastly, Mr. Neal intends to do some landscaping along the entire front of the property in the future.”

At a public hearing at the board’s March meeting, neighbors remonstrated against Neal’s petition, voicing concerns about traffic, drainage, and other issues. That public hearing was continued to Thursday’s meeting but in the meantime Neal opted to withdraw his petition.

Apartment at The Factory

In other business, members voted unanimously to grant to B & B Developers Inc. a variance which will permit the continued residential use of a 40’ x 35’ unit on the second story of the west end of The Factory, 1050 Broadway.

Bill Bennett has recently taken ownership of The Factory, his attorney, Terry Hiestand, told the board, and during a recent inspection discovered that the unit in question, being used as an apartment, would need a variance.

“It looks like a coach-house that was an add-on at The Factory,” Member Kim Goldak noted.

As near as Bennett can figure, the unit was formerly used as a storage space by the owner of a tavern on the first floor beneath it. At some point the tavern owner appears to have added a restroom and a kitchen so that he could stay overnight at the end of the business day. The current tenant on the first floor, beneath the unit, is Bootcamp Fitness Center.

“It makes sense to use the space this way,” Hiestand suggested, adding that it’s “very compatible with what’s being done there” and has caused “no interferences with other uses” at The Factory.

Goldak had no problems with the petition and said that it reminds her of the groundfloor storefronts in her neighborhood growing up in Chicago, most of which were put to residential use upstairs.

Members accordingly granted the petition, with the single condition that there be no expansion of residential use at The Factory.

At a public hearing which preceded the vote, no one spoke in favor of the petition and no one against it.

Climate Controlled

Another Bennett property was the subject of a second public hearing, this one his storage business at 175 E. U.S. Highway 20, where he was seeking a use variance to convert a building into climate-controlled storage, for which there exists no listed use in the Zoning Ordinance.

Hiestand told the board that the lease form used by Bennett specifically forbids the storage of a number of specific items: firearms, paints and solvents, other chemicals or flammable substances, propane tanks, jewelry, antiques, drugs, and any other item with a value in excess of $5,000.

And because Bennett plans to divide the interior into 10’ x 10’ units, there would be no bulk storage in the building either, Hiestand noted.

“There’s a demand for this kind of storage,” Hiestand said. “Essentially it’s a cut above regular storage.”

Goldak was curious about that demand: “What would you store in climate-controlled?” she asked.

“Things affected by heat and cold,” Hiestand replied.”

Like what? Goldak pressed.

“The majority of it is furniture,” Bennett said. And items which might be subject to mold if kept outside in barn storage. “Some people are willing to pay more for that.”

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell told the board that Fire Chief John Jarka has inspected the property and reviewed the terms of Bennett’s standard lease form and is okay with both.

Members voted unanimously to approve the petition. At a public hearing prior to the vote, no one spoke in favor of the petition and no one in opposition.

Another Petition Withdrawn

Meanwhile, Secretary Murawski informed the board that a third public hearing on Thursday’s agenda was made moot by virtue of the fact that Brad Joyce, of 1651 Hogan Ave., has withdrawn his petition for a variance to reduce the sideyard setback from the minimum of 10 feet to six feet.

Joyce was interested in expanding his two-car garage into a three-car garage but cited opposition from his neighbor in his decision to withdraw the petition.

Preliminary Hearing Continued

Finally, members voted unanimously to continue to their May meeting the petition of Robert Johnson for two variances which would permit the construction of a sunroom at his home at 401 Louisa Lane.

Johnson was not in attendance. Should the petitioner not appear at the board’s May meeting, members will be obliged to dismiss the case altogether.


Posted 4/26/2019





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