TOWN OF SANTA CLAUS
BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS MEETING
April 24, 2017
Board members present: Eric Snow, Frank Fowler, Bob Grundhoefer, Jim Voges, and Lynn Winkler.
Board Members absent: None.
Also present: Aaron Burke, the new Zoning Administrator
Kevin Patmore, Town Attorney
Many members of the public.
Eric Snow called the meeting to order at 6:07 p.m. at the Santa Claus Town Hall.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS:
Bob Grundhoefer made a motion to re-elect all officers as before. Jim Voges seconded the motion.
Chairperson: Eric Snow; Vice Chairperson: Bob Grundhoefer; Secretary: Lynn Winkler.
The motion passed by a vote of 5 to 0.
The minutes of the prior meeting of October 24, 2016 were read. Bob Grundhoefer made a motion to accept the minutes. The motion was seconded by Frank Fowler and the motion carried 5 to 0 with no corrections.
NEW BUSINESS: None
OLD BUSINESS :
HISTORIC SANTA CLAUS CAMPGROUND SECOND APPLICATION FOR SPECIAL EXCEPTION FOR ADVERTISING DEVICE (i.e. Billboard)
The original application for the Special Application was submitted in October of 2016 and was denied at the October 24, 2016 meeting.
This was the Public Hearing for this Special Exemption for an Advertising Device (billboard) and is not on the petitioner’s land. This land is located in the Agricultural Zone on State Highway 162 E across from the intersection of 162 and CR625 E and would be located on property owned by Ruth Gellersen on the “Hanning” property. Aaron Burke had served notice by certified mail and publication as required by law. There were no replies. It should be noted that the land across the highway is not in the Town of Santa Claus.
It also should be noted that the billboard is meant to direct auto traffic (destined for the Campground) coming from the west on SR 162 to turn left onto CR 625E and head north directly to the campground and avoid going out of the way through the Town of Santa Claus and therefore avoiding Holiday World traffic.
The Historic Santa Claus Campground represented in person by Ken Schaaf wished to replace a ‘sign’ (actually an Advertising Device under current code) that was destroyed in a storm over a year ago, which does not meet current town rules nor State laws, but had been grandfathered before the storm. This ‘sign’ would be a 4’ X 6’ directional device (a.k.a. billboard ) and be made of white plastic with black and red lettering. Mr. Schaaf handed out a picture of the Ad device and spoke to the Board about the history of the Santa Claus Campground and its relationship with the Town of Santa Claus including giving the Town permission to erect a large ‘sign’ on its property on State Highway 245 and maintaining the town’s device at the Campground’s time and expense.
A discussion ensued which went over the specifics of the issue. It is the Board’s understanding that in addition to the negative view of this type of advertising device in the Town Comprehensive Plan, that the Town leaders had in the past specifically disallowed the use of such billboards on nearby lands, and had even had them removed.
Many members of the public spoke in favor of the Advertising Device. The reasons the public members gave in support of the erection of the device include:
- It is a beautiful and well-made device.
- The Santa Claus Campground is an historic site.
- The Campground is a religious institution.
- The Campground is non-profit.
- Safer for less auto traffic to travel near Holiday World and downtown Santa Claus.
- To allow the Special Exception shows the Board to be community-spirited and neighborly.
- To deny the Special Exemption is just mumbo-jumbo and legalese.
- The ‘sign’ should be grandfathered.
- The Board of Zoning Appeals just doesn’t want to be kept busy with future appeals that would come up due to an agreement for the Special Exception.
- Since it is small and a directional sign, it should be in a separate category from Ad Devices (billboards).
- It is just commonsense to allow the ‘sign’.
It was noted by Kevin Patmore that granting a Special Exception for content or for a religious or non-profit group only would be a violation of the Constitution. Mr. Patmore also went over the different legal definitions of a ‘sign’ vs an ‘Advertising Device’.
Lynn Winkler, member of the Board, suggested that the supporters could request that the Town Council modify the ordinance to allow that device and similar devices to be erected in the Town.
It was noted by the Jeff Stillman, attending as a member of the public, that the Campground could get a directional sign from INDOT and have it put on SR162 in the highway right-of-way—much, much closer to the highway than the proposed advertising device. Mr. Stillman also went over the process by which the Town and its Planning Commission would go through to modify the ordinance.
Eric Snow closed the public hearing when there were no further comments.
Kevin Patmore went over the findings that must be met before a Special Exemption can be granted:
- The establishment, maintenance or operation of the special exception will not be injurious to the public health, safety, or general welfare of the community.
- The special exception will not affect the use and value of other property in the immediate area in a substantially adverse manner.
- The establishment of the special exception is consistent with the character of the district (particularly that area immediately adjacent to the special exception) and the permitted land use.
Lynn Winkler made the motion to deny the Special Exception based on #3 above: ‘That the advertising device is inconsistent with the permitted land use.’ Eric Snow seconded the motion. The vote to deny carried 5 to 0.
There was no other business. Eric Snow made a motion to adjourn, Frank Fowler seconded the motion and the Board voted 5 to 0 to adjourn at 7:08 pm.
Lynn Winkler, Secretary