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April 25, 2016 Board of Zoning Appeals Minutes

Jim Maciejewski, PresidentTim Kuiper, Board Attorney
Ken Schneider, Vice-President 
Tom Ryan 
Paul Panczuk 
Jason Williams 


Mr. Maciejewski called to order the St. John Board of Zoning Appeals for April 25, 2016 at 7:00 p.m., and asked all to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance (recited and all took their seats).


Roll call was taken by recording secretary, Susan E. Wright. Members present: James Maciejewski, Ken Schneider, Tom Ryan, Paul Panczuk and Jason Williams. Staff present: Mr. Tim Kuiper, Board Attorney.


Mr. Maciejewski entertained a motion to defer the minutes from the January 25th and March 28th, 2016 meetings. Mr. Ryan made a motion to defer. Motion seconded by Mr. Schneider. Motion carried 5 ayes – 0 nays.


A. Franciscan Family Care Center – 11355 West 97th Lane (All Right Signs) – Digital Component to existing Sign Structure

Mr. Bill Hollahan introduced himself. He advised he is representing All Right Signs for Franciscan Health facility on U.S. 41 (Wicker Avenue). He reminded everyone that at the last meeting that there were some revisions that needed to be made to the sign, which was the overall height of the sign, bringing it from the top of the sign ten feet (10’) to nine feet (9’), and also knocking the existing brick down to an overall height of ten feet (10’).

Mr. Williams reminded Mr. Hollahan that they wanted to keep it under thirty total square feet and a monochrome sign. Mr. Ryan commented that the monochrome was the visible opening and it was to be kept to eight square feet.

Mr. Ryan advised that he did the math and it is thirty-three square feet total, and we were shooting for eight square feet on the monochrome amber sign. Mr. Hollahan stated that he would have conformed to that, but the manufacturer, according to their specs that they were not able to. Mr. Ryan noted that it is still very close to what they discussed.

Mr. Williams asked about the overhead slide (screen) that they have landscaping to block the view of Hunters Run subdivision. Mr. Hollahan advised that is correct, and with the planting of the bushes there should be no more visibility at all from the residential area, it is projected more towards U.S. 41, instead of inward.

Mr. Maciejewski reminded the board that they discussed the digital component of no side-to-side or scrolling. Mr. Hollahan advised that would all be in the software, the sign has all the capabilities that the members were asking for and is already in the software to program it as such. Discussion included whether the sign brightness could be dimmed at a dusk-to-dawn type setting. Mr. Hollahan advised that could be done, it would be programmed into the photocell, as the sun starts to set it would automatically program that in. Same when the sun rises, it would make it brighter. Same parameter for no flashing.

Mr. Kuiper advised that it is a continued public hearing, and it would be proper to open it back up to the floor, if you are done with questions from the petitioner.

Mr. Maciejewski opened the floor to continued Public Hearing on the matter and asked that you state you name and address for the record.

Mrs. Priscilla Madsen (11347 Valley Drive):

Submitted a prepared letter from her husband, Mr. Carl Madsen. The remonstrance was distributed to the board members. General discussion ensued over points made in the written remonstrance; mostly the landscaping being maintained by the owner of the property.

[talking in the audience addressing concerns, Mr. Maciejewski asked that the person come to the podium and give name and address for the record]

Mary Frances Wolski (11406 Valley Drive):

[her comments and concerns were addressed directly by Mr. Hollahan from her seat].

Hearing no further public comment, Mr. Maciejewski closed the floor and brought the matter back to the board.

Mr. Maciejewski summarized the contingencies that we had discussed: no side-to-side motion, no scrolling, no flashing, message should appear for a minimum of six seconds before changing, we might add to the list, if you are so inclined to include, the landscape to be approximately 6’ in height to shield out the digital component, and maintained by the petitioner. Mr. Panczuk stated to also make sure the sign contains a monochrome amber message and auto dimming dusk-to-dawn.

Mr. Ryan asked about the date on the latest rendering as there were several submitted through the process. Mr. Maciejewski advised that it is dated April 4, 2016.

Mr. Maciejewski entertained a motion to approve or deny and referencing the findings of fact and any contingencies noted.

Mr. Schneider made a motion to approve the Developmental / Technical Variance for Franciscan Family Care Center at 11355 West 97th Lane with the following conditions:

1. The sign be installed per the latest plan dated April 4, 2016.
2. That the sign does not have any side-to-side scrolling, does not flash.
3. It will be dimmable from dusk to dawn.
4. It will be of monochrome background
5. All messages will hold for six (6) seconds
6. The landscape screen, shrubbery should be a minimum of six feet to start with,
7. And will be maintained by the petitioner.

Mr. Ryan seconded the motion. Motion carried 4 ayes – 1 nay.


A. 9827 McKenzie Court in Crossing Creek (Petitioner: Mr. Jack Slager ) Request for Reduction of Rear Yard Setback requirement.

Mr. Jack Slager of Schilling Development introduced himself. He advised that he is here tonight in regards to Lot 48 in Crossing Creek. He advised that as they neared the completion of this development there are several unusual shaped lots. He advised that Lot 48 is in the back of the cul-de-sac and when it was designed was 120’ deep from the cul-de-sac to the back of the lot. We have a customer that is interested in purchasing and building on this lot. They have submitted their site plan (placed on screen), and it was discovered that the rear yard requirement is now forty feet (40’). When the subdivision was platted in 2006, it was prior to the Town’s current Subdivision Zoning Ordinance which I believe was passed in June of 2009. So when this was originally platted the rear yard requirement was 25’. So this particular lot, with the home that these clients want to build would require a 30’ rear yard, obviously at the Southeast corner there. You will note that it is 30.2’ at the southwest corner of the home, 36.5’, so we are talking about the one-bedroom jutting into that requirement.

Due to the width of the lot, there is plenty of side yard and so we are asking for a reduction of the rear yard set-back from 40’ to 30’ in order to accommodate this house on this lot.

Mr. Panczuk asked if there were any issues with lot coverage area. Mr. Slager advised no, that it is about a 2,000 s.f. ranch. Again, it’s a big lot, it’s just an unusual shape. It’s wide and shallow. If it had been an issue when originally it was platted it would have been re-drawn, then.

Mr. Slager advised that that is why it is one of the last lots left, because it has been a challenge to build on for the last few years. It was noted that the lot to the left was still vacant.

Mr. Schneider asked what is existing to the South. Mr. Slager advised there are existing homes that back up to it. Mr. Panczuk noted an aerial view which showed a pool in the neighboring lot that appears to be close.

Mr. Panczuk asked for clarification for a typo on the site plan. The surveyor will be notified.

Mr. Panczuk asked if Mr. Slager knew the total square footage of the lot, it was not listed on the plat. Mr. Slager reminded that the R-2 requirement at the time was 100’ x 150’, it is what the standard lots in the development are, or 15,000 s.f. is the minimum for every lot in there, and this one is bigger than that.

Mr. Kuiper was called upon to check if all postings and notices are sufficient for conduct a public hearing on this item. He advised all was in order.

Mr. Slager clarified to Mr. Panczuk that this was a 2,000+ s.f. ranch with a three-car garage.

Mr. Maciejewski opened the matter to Public Hearing and asked that anyone speaking give their name and address for the record. Hearing none, Mr. Maciejewski closed the floor and brought the matter back to the board.

Mr. Panczuk stated he had only one more question, as obviously no one spoke up against it, I can only assume that the neighbors are okay with it. It is a little close to that house and pool. He asked if this was going to happen on more lots. Mr. Slager said that is a good question. Mr. Slager stated that there are only nine (9) lots left, one of the lots will be Lot 49 to the left of this, which is a huge lot. Several of the remaining lots are rectangle, 80’ x 150’, and we do have two very unusual shaped lots left that are quarter circles, so until we find someone willing to build on those. There is potential there could be two more unusual shape lots that we could be back for, however, we will try to market those to where the house will fit the 40’ rear yard requirement that could potentially be built on those. Mr. Panczuk stated that he liked that when it was platted it met the requirements, so it was not as if they were trying to make smaller lots after the fact, it is just the way it worked out.

Mr. Maciejewski entertained a motion to approve or deny a Developmental / Technical Variance, for a reduction in the rear yard setback from 40’ to 30’ and if there are any contingencies please state them with your motion adding that it could be contingent on this particular ranch discussed and not strictly universal for the lot. It was noted that the lot was.3731 acres.

Mr. Williams made a motion to approve to reduce the rear yard setback to 30’, with the contingency, as drawn in this diagram that we were given here on April 25, 2016. If there are other plans, we would like them to bring them back to the board. Mr. Schneider seconded the motion. Roll call vote was taken. Motion carried with 5 ayes – 0 nays.

B. Providence Bank Development – Southwest Corner of Calumet and 101st Avenue – (Petitioner: Mr. Philip Mulder) - Public Hearing

Mr. Maciejewski advised that the next item on the agenda was for Providence Bank Development for a Developmental / Technical Variance for a digital sign component.

Mr. Philip Mulder of Lagestee-Mulder Construction introduced himself, advising that he represents Providence Bank. He advised that they are present to request a Variance of Use / Special Exception, I think it is with or without a drive-up is the way it reads, plus the electronic sign for the bank, at the Southwest corner of 101st and Calumet Avenue.

Discussion ensued as to whether it was one variance or two due to the drive-up, as per St. John Zoning Ordinance.

Mr. Schneider wished to make a comment that he would excuse himself from this petition, due to my relationship to the petitioner.

Mr. Kuiper clarified the variances needed; one Special Exception and one Developmental / Technical.

Mr. Mulder advised that Providence Bank was formed in 2004, and they have twelve locations in Northwest Indiana and Illinois. In 2005 they opened a facility in Dyer, Indiana which is about 500 yards to the West in a retail center. They wish to have their own facility. Mr. Mulder clarified that the other location would close once this one moved from Dyer to St. John.

Direction was drawn to the site plan, which was just discussed at the last Plan Commission Study Session. The drive through on the West side, and the proposed sign is at the Northeast corner of the development.

Mr. Maciejewski first asked for any concerns or comments from the board on the drive-up facility. Mr. Ryan advised that the Plan Commission is probably going to cover this more than we will, as far as the site plan, but it shows a future development pass-through lanes, is that supposed to be taken as a frontage road that is going to parallel Calumet Avenue south? Mr. Maciejewski stated that potentially, that could be the next lot, this particular one before us is Lot 1 and Lot 2 is to the South and there are no immediate plans for development of that. Mr. Mulder advised that he is correct, that this tonight is 1.9 acres of a 24.2-acre development. The property was split, and they have no plans at all for the south, they just really wanted it for the corner.

Mr. Mulder continued by saying there is an entrance shown there, not knowing what that future development would be, but, to work around the pipeline, and the detention and everything else that’s there. It is a preemptive plan.

Mr. Maciejewski stated that the other comment he would make, from the Plan Commission, that was talked about and is in the drawing I see in front of us. There was an overlay which showed a deceleration and turn lane and what that looks like on the plans.

Mr. Mulder stated to give them history on that, when we submitted all of our paperwork weeks ago, in the last week I received an aerial view of a preliminary plan for a turn lane light there. And so what we did was we decided to get together with the engineer and drop that on our site plan to see if that would impact our development negatively. So the purpose of that was to show that our site still fits with what their plan is, although it is still preliminary. This was all forwarded to Mr. Kil and then he distributed that to you.

Mr. Panczuk was concerned about what the road along the West edge, between the pipeline and the building, was it going to be pushed through, there is no barrier or anything divided the drive-through from the pass-through.

Mr. Maciejewski advised that it is brought up at the Plan Commission that at a minimum there is going to be a divided lane from the entrance going South. This discussion I can carry back to the Plan Commission. More discussion ensued on the pass-through lane, and it was noted that will be addressed by the Plan Commission level. General discussion ensued in regard to traffic.

Mr. Maciejewski advised that the intersection of 101st and Calumet is being studied for signalization right now, which would improve the back-up that we are referencing in discussion.

Mr. Williams asked within the scope of this meeting are we strictly talking about the sign or are we talking about the entire site plan. Mr. Maciejewski advised that we are addressing the drive-through facility which would be a Special Exception.

Mr. Kuiper interjected that a financial institution without a drive-up, or with a drive-up, both require a Special Exception in all the business districts. Then the Plan Commission would take that with Town Council blessing on your recommendation, the Plan Commission would then take that and incorporate it into the site plan to make sure that traffic and other things like that will work with that drive-up feature.

Mr. Williams asked if they could skip to the sign issue. The one comment he has is the with previous signs, the impact it has on local homeowners. This being a lit sign, we have some of our horse farmer friends that we talked to previously, kitty-corner across from that intersection there. I want to see how you would protect the light from hitting those houses, I am not sure how you would do that here.

Mr. Maciejewski said that he is not sure they should combine these, they should be separate variances, as they are getting into matters that are more for the Plan Commission. The bank institution with a drive-through would be one and then the sign issue would be a second issue. Mr. Maciejewski suggested that they take the sign issue first, take public comment and then come back.

Mr. Kuiper was asked to affirm that the public notices and proofs of publication are in order to conduct a public hearing. Mr. Kuiper advised that they were in order.

Mr. Maciejewski advised again that everyone wishing to address this board on this issue can come to the podium, please state your name and address for the record. Hearing none, the public hearing was closed and brought back to the board.

Mr. Maciejewski reiterated that we have two (2) separate matters. One (1) will be handled as a Developmental / Technical Variance, which would be the sign itself. Then a Special Exception Variance application that would either receive a favorable, unfavorable or no recommendation from this board to the Town Council. He suggested the Special Exception first.

Mr. Williams wanted clarification that the board is just approving the “concept” that the financial institution will have a drive-up. Mr. Kuiper advised it is for “the Use”, and it still has to go to the Plan Commission for site plan approval.

Mr. Maciejewski entertained a motion after giving consideration to the matters of the Zoning Ordnance for this application for Special Exception for the use of a financial institution on this corner of 101st and Calumet, with a drive-through facility, I am noting the findings for this one:

1. That the approval will or will not be injurious to the public health, safety, morals, comfort and general welfare of the community.
2. The use and value of area adjacent to the property included in the variance will or will not be affected in a substantially adverse manner.
3. A need for the variance does arise from some condition particular to the property involved
4. The applicant did or did not establish that the strict application of the ordinance will constitute an unnecessary hardship
5. That Petitioner has or has not established that the approval will not interfere substantially with the Comprehensive Plan of the Town of St. John.

Mr. Maciejewski then stated that with all that being said, it is approving or disapproving with a favorable or unfavorable recommendation to the Town Council.

Mr. Ryan made a motion for a favorable recommendation to the Town Council. Mr. Williams seconded. Motion carried 4 ayes – 1 abstention.

Mr. Maciejewski advised that the remaining matter is the Developmental / Technical Variance, the sign at the northeast corner.

Mr. Ryan stated that he wished to say one more thing, and hopefully take back to the Plan Commission, the new standards of the lighting standards due to the proximity to homes, the bank is a good fit, not noisy and it is not a bad place, but the lighting is a concern.

Mr. Williams stated he is bringing it up again about the houses that are kitty-corner exactly on the northeast side of 101st and Calumet, it would be in direct view of this sign, and again just not sure how to shield the light from the sign for their residences.

Mr. Mulder asked to make a comment and was recognized. The site plan shows the sign going North and South and I think in light of the fact that we are on a corner, we actually thought about putting it in diagonal, I don’t know if it makes any difference, but given the fact that we are on a “T”, it seems to make more sense to have it at an angle.

Mr. Ryan asked about hours of operation, does it really have to be lit after 10:00 p.m. or something like that. Mr. Mulder did not know if he could speak to that on their behalf. He advised that he could find out what their regular hours are, and we have never had any complaints from anyone. This sign, other than the height and a little bit of the width, is the typical sign they have used at all their new facilities. Mr. Mulder advised that they have lowered it to 8’8”, we got the reader board at 8’ x 1’. I have read all the requirements and I heard in the first sign matter tonight, some of those, and they are well aware of those.

Mr. Panczuk asked if this was like the one in Schererville. Mr. Mulder advised that those signs are bigger, the one being proposed here is smaller.

Mr. Mulder stated that he did not know what they received, however he provided some documents to show the board the sign which is mainly used since 2004. He noted that the particular sign is 12’ high and 10’ wide. Mr. Mulder advised that they have shrunk it down. This one now is 8’3” wide and it is 8’8” to the total peak of the roof, so it is considerably less, plus they brought it down because it is on a corner.

Mr. Williams asked if it would be appropriate or possible to place some vegetation on the northeast corner to block just any residual light from crossing that corner. Mr. Mulder advised that he is sure that there will be landscape for where they are sitting with regards to the property lines and whatever happens with the turn lanes, etc.

Mr. Ryan stated that he would leave that up to the Plan Commission, but believes it is a valid concern.

Mr. Panczuk stated that with residential nearby they have given stipulations before of lights out at 10:00 p.m., and back on a 5:00 a.m. I believe that was the hours of operation, so we could stipulate that.

Mr. Williams felt that it might be helpful to defer this matter to another meeting, after you have had that conversation with Providence Bank about the stipulations that we are suggesting.

Mr. Mulder asked if that delays the other issue that has been done. Mr. Kuiper advised it does not. Mr. Mulder advised then he would rather take the matter back to them for further discussion with the comments. The 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., the monochrome amber and any other programmable matters that you have already read about. The time stipulation would be for the message board only and not the overall lighting.

Mr. Kuiper and Mr. Maciejewski discussed the motion of no action. Mr. Kuiper advised that the matter would automatically deferred. General discussion ensued as to “deferral” versus “no action” and whether it goes into perpetuity.

Mr. Maciejewski entertained a motion to defer the matter, and continue the public hearing to our next scheduled meeting which is May 23, 2016.

Mr. Ryan made the motion as stated. Mr. Panczuk seconded. Motion carried with 4 ayes – 1 abstention.

With no other business before the Board, Mr. Maciejewski adjourned the meeting.

(The meeting was adjourned at 7:59 p.m.)

Respectfully submitted,

Michelle L. Haluska, Recording Secretary Pro-Tem
St. John Board of Zoning Appeals