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July 27, 2015 Board of Zoning Appeals Minutes

Jim Maciejewski, PresidentAttorney Tim Kuiper
Ken Schneider, Vice-PresidentSteve Kil
Steve Hastings, Secretary 
Tom Ryan 
Paul Panczuk 


MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Okay. Call to order the Town of St. John Board of Zoning Appeals for July 27, 2015. Please rise for the Pledge.

(The Pledge of Allegiance was said.)

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Roll call. Ken Schneider.


MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Paul Panczuk.

MR. PANCZUK: Present.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Jim Maciejewski. Present.

Let the record reflect that Attorney Kuiper is here.


Item Four, approval of minutes. We do not have a written transcription of our minutes. I’m not quite sure what the --- the issue is there. So we will have to defer that until such time that that is made available to us.

Attorney Kuiper, do I need to do anything official with that, or just...?

ATTORNEY KUIPER: No. At the next meeting when the minutes are actually presented for your review and consideration



MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Thank you. All right. On to Item 5A. Old Business, Item A, Lake Central High School, LED sign, monument, height and size, developmental variance…is a continued public hearing from our June 22, 2015, meeting.

Petitioners are here. If you can maybe go to the podium and give us an update and where we’re at with some of the questions we had from last time.

ATTORNEY SEARS: My name is Michael Sears. I with the law firm of Christ, Sears and Zic. I represent the Lake Central School Corporation. We have Bill Ledyard who is the director of the facilities. You folks know that Duane Dart is the project architect.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Good evening.

ATTORNEY SEARS: As you know, this is a carry-over from an April 27th public hearing that was deferred. We were sent for an application for a developmental variance with regard to the sign at the --- outside the high school.

I believe, Mr. President, you were one of the people that asked that if we had more information to present it at our next meeting.


ATTORNEY SEARS: We have --- on June 12, the school submitted a report from First Group Engineering, Mr. Denny Cobb --- which I believe went to your town engineer, who, I believe, has forwarded it to all members of the BZA along with Mr. Kuiper.

And --- I don’t mean to rehash that, but he does say in reviewing all of the design drawings he concludes the sign can be placed as planned and it will not interfere with the required clear sight distance.

We’ve spoken --- I know Mr. Ledyard has spoken, Mr. Cobb --- excuse me --- Mr. Kraus who seems to indicate that he’s okay with Mr. Cobb’s report. It’s our understanding that he reviewed it. I know he’s spoken with you. We’ve not received any type of report from Mr. Kraus other than what we received in May where he expressed some of his concerns. But we believe that we understand that you told us that safety was paramount at the last April meeting. We believe that Mr. Cobb’s report should allay any of those concerns with regard to safety. But we’re certainly here, the architect and the director of the facilities to answer any questions, further questions you have with regard to safety.

But I’d like to take a moment, if I could, to kind of just, you know, let you folks know that this message board that we’re here about is going to be more than just information for the school. It’s going to be a valuable service to the community as well. Just a couple of examples, notifying the residents that we partner with the Town to serve as a warming center; welcoming home military personnel from St. John; announcing Veteran’s Day celebration or a Chamber of Commerce Corn Roast; congratulating community members with regard to accomplishments; Eagle Scouts, Boy Scouts, those types of things, the Little League team. So it’s going to be used for more than just school information.

And we also want to make sure that the Board is clear that the same parameters or criteria that was placed on the Kolling sign that you approved in the April meeting, we would be willing to do those same criteria with regard to this particular LED sign. And there are seven of those that you approved. Text cannot scroll side to side. No flashing text or graphic. Words of each message must be of the same color. Message must remain on the screen for a minimum of six seconds. Any photo, school logo or mascot must be with a black background. Auto-dimming feature. And the sign will only be operational from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Now, I want to apologize to you folks right off the bat because I know that that was part of what was in the Kolling approval of the application. And I know we fell down on that when the sign was first on. And I want to tell you that that was a miscommunication of the school personnel. It’s been corrected. And I think you can all --- if you’ve been by there, it’s been corrected. And we do apologize for that. And we understand what happened, as to why that happened, and why the directions were not followed. It will not happen with regard to the high school sign.

You know, I --- I guess I’m --- not again to retread old ground here, but we feel that the size of the sign is appropriate with regard to the scale of the school. It’s a grand school. It’s a beautiful building. We want a sign that matches that. Certainly, a sign such as the Kolling sign wouldn’t be appropriate outside the high school.

Your own ordinance says that every sign should be designed as an integral architectural element of the building. We think that we’ve done that, spot on, with this --- this monument sign. If you shrink it down, I don’t think that it has the same effect. And I don’t think it leads to --- that what you’re really looking at with regard to the ordinance there, and the --- becoming an integral architectural element of the building.

We really want to move forward with this. We would like for you to make a decision tonight. We think that the application for a developmental variance should be approved. We’re certainly here to respond to any questions you have, any concerns that you may have. But, you know, this was set in April, and for various reasons has been deferred now, and we would like this honorable Board to make a decision. So we respectfully request that the application be approved.

MR. MACIJEWSKI: Thank you.

ATTORNEY SEARS: Again, we are here to answer any questions that you may have.


ATTORNEY SEARS: I guess I’ll stay up here in case---


ATTORNEY SEARS: ---there’s something I can answer, or maybe one of the other...

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: One of the elements that we talked about at the last meeting was a request that the school corporation consider alternative locations for the sign, as it’s designed, other than the entrance island. And I don’t know that we’ve seen anything relative to that.

ATTORNEY SEARS: And I can tell you that we’re not submitting anything---

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Okay. So you’re---

ATTORNEY SEARS: ---with regard to that.


ATTORNEY SEARS: We respectfully decline to do that.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Okay. There was also a request for consideration of a reduced size, but I’m guessing you’re going to tell me that you’re not going to submit anything to that regard either?


MR. PANCZUK: Mr. President, if I may?


MR. PANCZUK: There’s an entire punch list of concerns, none of which were addressed except for the safety one with this letter here. So...

And those concerns mirror the ones he just mentioned along with the size of the message board, scaling it down, individually.

We had addressed the architectural blending of the sign. Sure, it matches the building. It could be, what, twenty percent smaller and meet our ordinance. There’s a lot of gigantic shopping malls that want to put up a sign appropriate to their size too, and it doesn’t happen. I mean, it’s --- it’s, uhm, quite a sign.

And the alternate location was probably the most important that we had requested. If there was anything that I would like to see, it would have been a drawing of how it looked maybe out in the parkway, maybe in the vicinity of the current sign, it’s a great location.

There’s no question it would --- whether it would obstruct sight lines. The report might say that it’s safe, but I --- I find that hard to believe, especially with (unintelligible word/words) mixed into that. I feel a little bit of responsibility. But, in any event, safety aside, it just doesn’t seem to be a good location, and we made that really clear a few months ago, and haven’t seen anything addressed. So...


MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Any comments?

MR. SCHNEIDER: No, not yet.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: The sign, as it’s constructed, is supposed to be from the curb. The height of it, say, from the base, it’s drawn at three foot four, but it’s actually constructed at four feet from the curb. Is there any reason it why it was built eight inches higher than the submission?

ATTORNEY SEARS: I can’t --- Can you answer that?

MR. DART: Not that I’m aware of.

MR. LEDYARD: I think that may just be a cap. I think that just might be a cap for the sign itself.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: It’s the --- no, it’s the height of the brick, the brick masonry. You think that that was going to get knocked off?

MR. LEDYARD: I thought that might be the case.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Not --- not the --- the 12’4” section. The lower---

MR. LEDYARD: No, I --- the base itself.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: So the whole thing actually ends up being eight inches higher than what was submitted?

MR. DART: I did not measure what the build height was out there, so they could have an extra (unintelligible)

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: I think your drawing was followed, but the submission --- because ultimately, somehow in the file here, I’m seeing your drawings and you took the 3’4” from a --- from a datum line that was 8” up. But the ordinance is from the curb --- from the top of curb.

MR. DART: Sure.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Attorney Kuiper, just as a reminder, I believe, with only three of us there needs to be a unanimous consideration?

ATTORNEY KUIPER: Correct. It has to be the majority of the Board. The Board is five so you have to have three to approve any decision in order to have appropriate action on the item.

MR. SCHNEIDER: I guess, knowing that we have a ten foot high ordinance and the thing comes in 12’8”, which may be now 13”4’ --- I mean we at least hope for something, you know.

MR. LEDYARD: We’ll be happy to take that (unintelligible word/words) out. We could --- we could take that (unintelligible word/words) down and I’ll have to ask for a height variance. And we’ll also make that correction about the base there, Jim. (Unintelligible) so we’ll make that correction as well.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Just in relation to these sketches, the signed sketches?

MR. LEDYARD: We do have (unintelligible).

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Is --- is there any concern on the corporation’s part with the --- the nature of the drivers that are entering and leaving the campus? And some pretty novice drivers. And having this solid wall there that, you know, other than the lead car, nobody is going to see beyond.

MR. LEDYARD: Well, there’s always concern. There’s a sign there now. As you said, they’re novice drivers. We --- we hardly have any traffic accidents there at the intersection. I think the first two cars have their line of sight there.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: It would only be the first one because it’s 16 feet.

MR. LEDYARD: Well --- and I understand that, but we will have the stop (unintelligible word) that’s indicated in the drawings. But also people --- nobody really uses that sidewalk down there. I mean --- but we’ve been watching here lately, I’ve been out here. You have two cars that---

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Yeah, they’re going to pull further forward is what you’re saying?

MR. LEDYARD: I believe so. Mr. Redar was out this --- this morning taking some measurements for the town. Uhm, and you know, when I talked with Mr. Kraus as well as Mr. Redar after he took the measurements, they had a concern about a small evergreen looking north.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: I did see that e-mail come through.

MR. LEDYARD: We removed that per the recommendations of Mr. Kraus and Mr. Redar, and I pretty much --- I mean it’s --- it’s unobstructed, south and north with two cars.

MR. SCHNEIDER: I guess the question I have --- and I don’t know how this --- if it wasn’t a sign, would you have built a solid wall there, a 24 foot long 10 foot high or 12 foot high?

MR. DART: Probably not, but your ordinance probably would have made us put a bunch of bushes in there. There would have been something there, but (unintelligible word/words).

MR. LEDYARD: No. We have --- I mean it’s --- Mr. Dart indicated we worked long and hard with the Plan Commission and they were pretty strict on their landscape responsibilities, and we have tons of landscaping up and down 41 as well as all over the site.

UNINDENTIFIED: He’s right. We have landscaping there. And obviously, we need the --- we need the masonry to support the sign. That’s (unintelligible word/words).

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: I remember saying at the last meeting that I --- I recognize the size of the sign and the scale of the complex, but not at that location. And that’s what I was really hoping for, some consideration on alternative location for where this could go. Because I don’t think that it really belongs in that center median.

I think that it’s invariably going to end up --- whether it’s entering in and cars are backed up behind it and you can’t see them turning in, or kids racing out on the right turn and --- and just following the person in front of them and not being able to see until they’re actually out there. I just think that there --- there really --- I mean I understand the letter. I can recognize that. But I really think that some consideration for the skill level of who we have going in and out in relation to the magnitude of that. Like --- and I think that’s an appropriate statement, would we put a landscape wall that high would --- would essentially, other than the lead car, maybe two cars, nobody can see past it.

And I’m not --- I’m just not understanding that thought process. When you had some other opportunities, I think, to put the sign, still get the visibility that you’re after and maybe even, you know, still that --- that scale. Although I think that maybe there’s some issue still with some members’ concern over the size. I don’t --- I guess I was hoping that there would be some consideration of that. And to have you just say ‘no, we’re not going to consider it,’ that –-- that seems to be a little bit difficult to understand especially given the time --- the time that’s lapsed. And I know that’s due to some of the engineering in terms of people go back and forth. This is fairly current.

MR. SCHNEIDER: Was the sign location approved by the Plan Commission?

MR. DART: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED: But not the sign itself, so...

(Board members talk amongst themselves.)

MR. PANCZUK: Not this, obviously.

MR. LEDYARD: No, location. The question was location, and that was ---

ATTORNEY SEARS: We’re here for the sign, so...

MR. PANCZUK: Well, that would be like me asking to put a one car garage up and getting approval for that and then coming back and putting a pole barn up in its stead. So the location being approved is pretty much a moot point. This is nowhere near a thirty square foot monument sign, so...

UNIDENTIFIED: That’s why we’re here.


UNIDENTIFIED: (Unintelligible word/words).

MR. PANCZUK: No. I understand. I understand. I’m just...

MR. MACIEJESKI: Okay. Any other questions at this point?

MR. SCHNEIDER: I don’t think so.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: No. Mr. Kuiper, I believe we still need to continue the public hearing. I don’t think anything’s been changed with that. So, at this time --- have a seat. Thank you.


MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Open the floor for public comment. Anybody here or wishes to address the Board relative to this matter, please step forward, state your name and your address and your comment.

Hearing none, I’ll close the public hearing and return this to the Board for consideration of a motion.

MR. SCHNEIDER: I got one more question.


MR. SCHNEIDER: If there was any chance that this sign wouldn’t have been approved, why did you build the foundation?

MR. LEDYARD: I asked --- we had spring break coming up and I asked Mr. Kil if we could go ahead and put the foundation in --- to go ahead because less traffic here where we could get machinery in, masonry and all the materials and stuff there. And he said we could --- we could go ahead at our own risk and so that’s what we did. And I apologize that it went up above grade, but I was home with pneumonia and my guys got a little rambunctious there when I was out. And three days later, you know, the base was built. We were supposed to only go below grade but we --- we --- you know, (unintelligible word/words) --- as Mr. Sears says it’s a good sign and a way for the school to communicate.


(Board confers amongst themselves.)

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: If there aren’t any other comments, then it would be appropriate to consider a motion, either for or against the technical variance, giving consideration to the findings of fact, the comprehensive plan of the town, that approval will not be injurious to the public health, safety and morals, comfort, general welfare of the community. That the use and value of the area adjacent to the property including the variance will or will not be affected in a substantially adverse manner, and the strict application of the terms of the ordinance will or will not result in a practical difficulty in the use of the property.

MR. PANCZUK: Gentlemen, I have one more question for the Petitioner. Would any consideration be given in its current location --- one of the concerns that we pointed out at the last meeting, the aesthetics of the LED being just pretty much by itself. It’s like somebody thought of the sign and said ‘well, you know, let me just add a television to the side of it.’ It’s not integrated.

I mean the Kolling sign is small but it’s integrated. It seems to be, you know, thought out. It seems that we’d solve a lot of problems size-wise and aesthetics-wise and safety-wise if you were to limit the sign to the size of this Board here, and somehow integrate a smaller reader board.

It would basically cut eight feet off of it. Because right now, it’s about the size of a school bus. So, I’d be possibly willing to do that. I don’t know if there’s any consideration of making it smaller if there’s not another location. That’s --- that’s about the only other alternative that seems feasible within the ordinance and what we’re trying to support and keep pretty close to.

ATTORNEY SEARS: I think I answered that question, but at this point---


MR. PANCZUK: No. Okay.

ATTORNEY SEARS: What we have before is --- is ---


(The Board confers amongst themselves.)

MR. PANCZUK: Mr. President, I’d like to make a motion to deny the variance for Lake Central High School LED sign, monument height and size, developmental variance with the continued public hearing.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: A motion. Do I have a second?


MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Okay. Then I’ll call the roll. Paul Panczuk.


MR. SCHNEIDER: Which way?

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Your vote ---

MR. PANCZUK: Oh, yeah. I’m for --- I’m sorry, yes.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: Mr. Schneider.


MR. PANCZUK: I apologize.

MR. MACIEJEWSKI: And I vote yes. I’m sorry, your petition has been denied.



Mr. Maciejewski noted the next item for the Board’s consideration was a message center at Lake Federal, located at 10865 Parrish Avenue, seeking a developmental technical variance and with a continued public hearing.

Mr. Skrabala appeared before the Board of Zoning Appeals seeking a developmental technical variance for a message center located at Lake Federal Bank, 10865 Parrish Avenue, St. John, Indiana. He thanked the Board for their consideration and recommendations last month.

Mr. Skrabala stated that Lake Federal has been serving Lake County, Indiana for 58 years, and in the Town of St. John since 2008. He stated that Lake Federal is the only mutually chartered bank in Lake County, Indiana. The bank offers services in the following areas: savings accounts, Christmas Club, certificates and safety deposit boxes.

Mr. Skrabala stated cited a survey from the American Banking Association that stated that message signs enhance businesses and help increase business from 15-100% from potential customers just seeing the messages.

Mr. Skrabala introduced Mr. Steve Davenport, CFO, Lake Federal Bank, and Ms. Nancy Williams, manager of the St. John branch of Lake Federal Bank.

Mr. Skrabala stated ten banks in St. John were surveyed for the information to be presented by Mr. Davenport.

Mr. Davenport presented a chart with data gathered from the aforementioned ten financial institutions for the Board’s review. Mr. Davenport noted that Lake Federal’s deposits are the lowest in St. John.

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Davenport noted the amounts that the institutions spend on advertising. He informed the Board that in terms of marketing hours, percent-wise (other than BMO Harris) Lake Federal is spending more net income on advertising than any other institution indicated on the chart.

Mr. Davenport presented and explained additional data for the Board’s review and consideration. When he finished presenting, he stated he would be happy to answer any questions the Board may have.

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Maciejewski referred to BZA minutes from July, 2008.

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Skrabala stated that the representatives for Lake Federal took special consideration of what was talked about at the June, 2015, meeting. He said that Lake Federal Bank as decided that they would install only a monochromatic (amber) sign only. He stated that the Petitioner is willing to abide by the Town’s ordinance related to message centers.

Mr. Skrabala stated that the Petitioner would like to place community-related messages on the sign, as Lake Federal would like to be a part of the community. He stated when Lake Federal was built, there was no much in the way of businesses or residences. Mr. Skrabala stated that Lake Federal believes that the proposed message center would give the bank more presence and acknowledgement. He reiterated that the Petitioner would comply with a monochromatic sign, if need be.

Mr. Panczuk stated there was previous discussion about making the sign a little smaller. Mr. Skrabala stated the sign representative was out of Town.

Ms. Williams stated part of the problem the Petitioner has on the corner is that there is a ditch between the Petitioner and Subway and another ditch near Route 231 and Parrish. She stated that the vegetation in the ditches used to be cut back. Ms. Williams stated that the ditch between the bank and Subway now consists of vegetation and actual trees. She stated that from certain vantage points, the bank’s sign is obscured by the vegetation. Ms. Williams stated she has been unable to contact anyone “in charge” to get the vegetation cut back.

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Panczuk stated that the monochromatic sign was his primary concern. He stated that the Board is attempting to avoid the “Vegas look” with the LED signs in Town.

Mr. Schneider commented that there was discussion about modifying the size and height of the sign. He stated it would have been nice to see another sketch.

(General discussion ensued.)

Attorney Kuiper noted that since 2008, four banks have petitioned for variances of this type and all of them were denied. He stated he understands the plight of Lake Federal. Attorney Kuiper cautioned the Board that whatever action they take tonight may set a precedent.

Mr. Maciejewski one consideration before the Board is is the Board willing to grant an LED message center knowing that there will be a parade of Petitioners behind Lake Federal who want the same thing.

Mr. Schneider stated he was sitting on the Board when all of the previous exceptions were granted.

Mr. Maciejewski stated that what was approved “way back” was the ground sign excluding the supports or the peak was not to exceed 55 square feet.

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Maciejewski stated he does appreciate the fact that the bank considered using a monochromatic sign, but it would open up a flood gate.

Mr. Panczuk stated that the sign color was just one of the hurdles for Petitioner. He stated that the size is still an issue. Mr. Panczuk stated that the Kolling sign, with a reader board that comprises approximately 25-30% of the sign, is proportionate and appropriate.

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Schneider stated “We gave up a lot the first time.” Mr. Maciejewski concurred.

Mr. Maciejewski asked the Petitioner if they could make a correlation between “This is going to benefit the business and therefore, benefit the Town because of increased business.”

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Maciejewski asked Mr. Skrabala what his position on every bank having a message board would be in the in the event the Board made a favorable decision for Lake Federal. Mr. Skrabala stated he could not speak for every bank; he stated other banks probably utilize other advertising methods besides a message sign.

Mr. Skrabala stated it is harder for small banks to compete in the market place now especially in light of new banking regulations. He stated that Lake Federal wants to be able to compete. Mr. Skrabala stated one of the reasons Lake Federal opened a bank in St. John is because it is a fast growing community.

Ms. Williams stated that Lake Federal will not use “Las Vegas type” colors or garish colors to draw attention to their bank. She stated the bank would present a very professional look for St. John.

Mr. Maciejewski opened the continued public hearing for Lake Federal Bank. He called for public comment. There was no public comment. Mr. Maciejewski closed the public hearing and brought the matter back before the Board.

Mr. Maciejewski stated he would entertain a motion on the developmental variance, for or against, with contingencies, if necessary.

Mr. Maciejewski asked if a 1x8 sign would be worth pursuing.

(General discussion ensued.)

Attorney Kuiper recommended that the Petitioner consult with their sign representative to see if eight square feet of reader board could be incorporated inside of the 55 square foot area.

Mr. Skrabala asked if the matter could be deferred until next month so this matter (eight square feet) could be investigated with the sign company representative.

(General discussion ensued.)

Mr. Maciejewski stated he would entertain a motion to defer the Lake Federal Bank developmental variance with the continued public hearing.

Mr. Schneider made a motion to defer developmental variance for the message center sign for Lake Federal Bank. Mr. Panczuk seconded the motion. The motion was carried by voice vote (3/0). Ayes --- all. Nays --- none.

Mr. Maciejewski stated there was no New Business.


Mr. Maciejewski stated he would entertain a motion to adjourn.

Mr. Panczuk made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Schneider seconded the motion. The motion was carried by voice vote (3/0). Ayes --- all. Nays --- none.

(The meeting was adjourned at 8:37 p.m.)


Susan E. Wright, Recording Secretary
St. John Board of Zoning Appeals