Chesterton Tribune



What’s a special events center? BZA wants to know

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The Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals doesn’t appear to oppose, on the face of it, the “special events center” which Prepared Services wants to operate at its warehouse--the old Pioneer Lumber building--at 505 Grant Ave.

But members are mostly stumped by what a “special events center” is, or might be.

At their meeting Thursday night, members voted unanimously to continue a preliminary hearing to their next meeting, Aug. 22, on Prepared Services’ petition for a use variance which would permit owners Derrick Serianni and Josh Strasburg to run a special events center at the old warehouse.

At issue, as attorney Tim Kuiper noted: the Zoning Ordinance’s use table does not include special events center. And Kuiper himself was unable, with the degree of specificity requested by members, actually to define what Serianni and Strasburg have in mind when they refer to a “special events center.”

Kuiper did take a stab at it: “Small concerts, gatherings of over 100 people.”

But President Richard Riley wasn’t satisfied. “We need your business plan,” he said. “Your hours of operation. Exits. Parking. And what do you mean by ‘special events center’?”

“This is so broad, I don’t know what I’m voting on,” Member Kim Goldak added. “I think I’d be more comfortable if you kind of reined it in. Give us some examples. All we need is examples of what you’re looking for.”

“We can absolutely do that,” Kuiper replied.

Member Jim Kowalski, for his part, impressed upon Kuiper the need for thoroughness. “I want to see a complete layout of everything that is involved. I want to know as a board member everything you’re going to do on the property. I want to know from A to Z. If I can’t vote for a good thing in my heart, you’re not going to get my vote. You’ve got a great concept. Now you’ve got to bring it all together.”

Members discussed one other issue as well, sort of a chicken-and-egg issue. Serianni and Strasburg must still submit their plans for a special event center to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission, and members expressed a preference for considering the petition after that body had approved those plans. Kuiper, however, indicated that the commission has no desire to review those plans until after the BZA has granted the use variance in question. “They want to know that the zoning is appropriate for the use we’re proposing,” he said.

All the more important, then, that Serianni and Strasburg get their ducks in a row, if they hope to secure a use variance, Riley suggested. “You have an advantage because you’re in a position to define the use,” he said. “It’s the business plan we really need to take a look at.” Including capacity, hours of operation, seating arrangements, parking, exits, and specific examples of uses.

Members voted unanimously to continue one other preliminary hearing as well, this one on Prepared Services’ petition for a sign variance. That sign would be located on the North Fourth Street side of the warehouse, but Kuiper was unable to say how much bigger the sign would be than the maximum permitted under the Zoning Ordinance, although he guessed it to be in the neighborhood of 300 square feet, compared to the maximum allowable of 80 square feet.

Prepared Services also needs to include in that petition, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell observed, a legally non-conforming sign already on the property, a relic from the Pioneer Lumber days.

Associate Town Attorney Julie Paulson emphasized that Kuiper needs to specify exactly how big that sign would be.


Posted 7/26/2019




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