Vern Brown, owner
of the Chesterton Brewery, 1050 Broadway in the Factory, has plans for the
old Westchester Lanes at 124 N. Eighth Street, whose 11,000 square feet he’d
like to lease from its current owner, Lukas Weldon.
For one thing,
Brown wants to open a distillery in the part of the building formerly known
as the “Westchester Lounge,” For another, he wants to convert the east
portion of the building into a mini-storage facility, taking advantage of
its 13-foot garage door and concrete floor to rent out space to the owners
of cars, boats, campers, and jet skis.
For the distillery,
however, Weldon will need to obtain a use variance from the Chesterton Board
of Zoning Appeals, as the Zoning Ordinances’ table of uses makes no
provision for a distillery.
mini-storage facility, Weldon will also need to obtain a special exception,
as the Zoning Ordinance does permit such a use in a B-3 building but only
subject to certain criteria.
attorney, Greg Babcock, noted at the preliminary hearing on Thursday, the
only entrance to the storage facility is the 13-foot garage door on the
north side of the building facing Wabash Ave., which means that Brown alone
would have access to it, not the renters. The old bowling alley is also
located behind and across the street from the I-1 zoned Republic Services
operations. “We think the location is good,” Babcock said. “We have the
ability to control access to it, so it would be generating some revenue
without a whole lot of activity.”
Both Fire Chief
John Jarka and Building Commissioner Mark O’Dell have specific concerns,
however, related to each of the proposed uses. With volatile spirits being
distilled on one side of the building and gasoline-fueled vehicles being
stored on the other side, the old bowling alley could present a fire hazard
if safety measures--like smoke alarms, a sprinkler system, and fire
doors--aren’t installed. O’Dell noted that the previous user of the
building--Road to Life--was required by the state to have both smoke alarms
and a sprinkler system, but that requirement expired with the use and the
alarms and sprinklers have since been stripped out. “So it’s not up to code
right now,” O’Dell said. “That building is not currently protected well
enough for indoor storage.”
Jarka concurred. “I
have a large concern about that building,” he told the BZA.
“Is there any
obstacle to putting a fire safety system in?” Member Rich Riley asked.
“That’s up to the
building owner,” O’Dell replied. “There are safety features we would like to
see. The state required them for the previous use.” And at the moment, Jarka
added, “we haven’t seen their architectural drawings, so we don’t know
Those drawings “are
a couple of weeks out,” Brown offered. He noted, though, that the distillery
would limit its gallonages and use a spirit safe, an enclosed box which
among other things captures the liquor’s volatile vapors. “We’re obviously
aware of the hazards around the still, so a spirit safe would have to be
In the end, members
voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on the two petitions at their
next meeting, July 23, with the understanding that Brown and Weldon would
sit down with Jarka and O’Dell to prepare a list of specific conditions
which the latter wants attached to special exception and variance, if
3525 Drivers Way
In other business,
members voted unanimously to hold a public hearing at their next meeting on
the petition of Michael and Melissa Topor for a side-yard setback variance
to allow the installation of an above-ground swimming pool on their property
at 3525 Drivers Way.
The Topors are
seeking a variance of six feet, from the minimum side-yard setback of 10
feet required by the Zoning Ordinance to four feet.
223 S. Eighth
Members also voted
unanimously to hold a public hearing at their next meeting on the petition
of Earl and Kathy Clark for two variances to permit the construction of a
larger garage on their property at 223 S. Eighth Street.
The Clarks are
seeking one variance to increase the maximum lot coverage of 30 percent to
41 percent; and another to reduce the side-yard setback from eight to three
feet, a variance of five feet. The current garage, built in 1928, isn’t
actually large enough for a pickup truck and, looking toward the future, the
Clarks are hoping to increase the sellability of their home.
At the request of
Brian Lewandowski, a principal of Benlew Enterprises LLC, members voted
unanimously to continue once again a preliminary hearing on Benlew’s
petition for multiple variances for the property at the southeast corner of
South Calumet Road and East Porter Ave.
seeking to subdivide the property and continue to use the house on one of
the parcels as a single-family residence but to develop an unknown
commercial use on the other parcel.
Later in the
meeting, the BZA held a pair of public hearings, both on petitions for
-- Peter and Karen
St. Mary’s petition to increase lot coverage from 30 percent to 32 percent,
to allow the construction of an enclosed sunroom at the rear of their duplex
at 1505-07 Washington Ave.
-- And Ron and
Jordana Zarchara’s petition to increase lot coverage from 30 percent to 36
percent, to allow the construction of a swimming pool and patio at their
home at 2121 Pradera Trail.
The BZA voted
unanimously to grant both variances. At public hearings which preceded the
votes, no one spoke in support and no one in opposition.