Council rejects Story's Madison relocation

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115575645418202.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jason Carson Wilson’, ‘623 N. Madison St.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115575648821000.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jason Carson Wilson’, ‘623 N. Madison St.’);

Story Motor Sales owner Paul Story won’t be able to end his career at 623 N. Madison St. after being forced from his property in the 800 block of West State Street. The Rockford City Council voted down his request for a special use permit to operate a car wholesaling business, with an inventory of no more than six cars, for three years.

“I think the city council did an injustice to my client,” Theodore Liebovich, Story’s attorney, said.

Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) was less than pleased: “I will not be supporting this tonight. We, as a city, should have a little more consideration for our citizens.” McNeely noted more than once Story only wanted to operate his business for two years. She stressed the need to be Story’s advocate.

“I feel sorry for that individual. That’s why I stand here tonight…being his voice,” McNeely said.

Liebovich said he needed to discuss how Story would like to proceed with his client. But Liebovich noted Story has two options—accept the city council’s decision or file a lawsuit in the 17th Judicial Circuit: “Let the judge decide whether the application for the special use permit was properly reviewed.”

Though a majority of existing businesses in the area qualify as light-industrial, Ald. Doug Mark, Rockford City Council Codes and Regulations Committee chairman, said granting Story’s request would impede progress of the city’s 2020 plan: “If we don’t make the decision and draw the line in the sand, it’s never going to happen.”

He said the city council passed the 2020 plan a year ago, with the intention of creating a mixed-use area. Mark said the area would include commercial and residential development. While the three-year limit might accommodate Story, Mark said it was unacceptable. He noted the city council’s Codes and Regulations committee voted to amend zoning in that area from I-1, light industrial, to C-4, commercial oldtown. Aldermen approved the zoning amendment at the July 3 meeting.

According to the plan itself, which can be found at, city planning staff created the 2020 plan to address things the Year 2000 plan didn’t foresee. That includes Rockford’s expansion to the Boone County line, it said.

Mark and City Current Planning Manager Todd Cagnoni’s reservations weren’t alleviated by assurances from Story’s counsel, Theodore Liebovich, that Story only wanted to remain in business for three more years.

City Administrator Jim Ryan agreed with Mark’s take on the situation: “It’s going in the wrong direction.”

He said Story’s proposed development would hinder the city’s plan to create a residential, commercial and cultural area. According to Ryan, allowing industry is “going back.”

Liebovich said Mark has been the roadblock standing between Story and his dream: “I know that (Mark) put a lot of time opposing this.” He said Mark’s logic for opposing the three-year special use permit escapes him.

“You’re not setting any kind of precedent,” Liebovich said.

Because there’s a substantial industrial presence in the area, Liebovich said he’s sure Story “assumed, with all this activity going on,” zoning wouldn’t be an issue. While acknowledging city staff gave Story relocation assistance, Liebovich said it amounted to giving Story copies of real estate listings he’d already reviewed and rejected.

According to Liebovich, Story’s purchase contract for the Madison Street property made no mention of acceptable zoning. He noted a mechanic isn’t located that far from Story’s location.

Ald. Nancy Johnson (D-8) said the city didn’t force Story from his former property, and relocation services had been offered to him: “We have tried everything we can.” Johnson said Story was very uncooperative, alleging he refused to meet with city staff.

But City Attorney Kerry Partridge said the city began eminent domain proceedings in 2005. According to Winnebago County court records, the case was settled May 31, 2006. Partridge said he was unaware of any promises the city made to Story in regard to finding another site. But he asserted Story purchased the Madison site without the city’s permission. The property is among those being rezoned from I-1 to C-4. Partridge said Story’s proposed car dealership wouldn’t be permitted in either I-1 or C-4.

“That’s the way the (zoning) code is written,” he said.

The Zoning Advisory Committee suggests permitted uses, Partridge said, with citizens, landscapers and engineers to help make up the committee.

Liebovich thought Johnson was, most likely, basing her observations on comments from staff. According to Liebovich, Johnson only attended one Codes & Regulations committee meeting dealing with the issue. He said Cagnoni had inferred Story was uncooperative during a Codes & Regulations committee meeting.

Liebovich disagreed with the characterizations: “That is certainly not the case. He cooperated every way he could.”

From the Aug. 16-22, 2006, issue

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