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Winnebago County Board: Vote delayed for commercial stables, convenience store forced to close
Posted By Staff On August 19, 2009 @ 7:07 am In Online Exclusives | No Comments
• News and notes from the Aug. 13 Winnebago County Board meeting
By Stuart R. Wahlin
In addition to approval of a key amendment to the county’s 2030 land-use plan (See “Amendment 7 added to 2030 plan—Development ‘firewall,’ or open door?” in this issue), other heated topics were brought to the floor by the Zoning Committee.
James and Rebecca Gruenberg are petitioning for a special-use permit (SUP) for a private recreational facility to allow commercial stables in an agricultural district at 6912 Manchester Road in Roscoe Township.
After much debate as to whether a layover requested by District 3 board members Kyle Logan (R) and Doug Aurand (D) was warranted, the Gruenbergs will have to wait until the Aug. 27 meeting for an answer.
Although the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted unanimously in support of the petition, with conditions, the County Board’s Zoning Committee recommended approval by a margin of only 3-2.
The Village of Roscoe, represented by Nicolosi & Associates, is interested in annexing the property, which appears to have slowed the process for the Gruenbergs, who say they’re not opposed to discussing the possibility. Meantime, the Gruenbergs have said they simply want to move forward with their petition.
Dave Yeske (R-2) argued the petitioners could be hurt financially by a delayed vote.
“This is gonna jeopardize the whole operation for them. They bought this piece of agricultural land. They want to use it basically for agricultural purpose,” Yeske asserted.
Bob Kinnison (R-10) agreed, noting the board’s tradition of respecting the wishes of petitioners with regard to whether a layover is acceptable or if they’d prefer an immediate vote.
Granted the floor, Gruenberg attorney Bryan Selander indicated a vote was preferable that night.
Aurand, however, noted another board tradition, whereby wishes of board members representing the affected district are respected. In this case, Aurand and Logan say they want more time to talk with interested municipalities and property owners.
“There needs to be more study on this issue,” Aurand stated.
Paul Gorski (D-5) reminded colleagues, however, that only ZBA findings can be considered in making their decision. No new evidence can be weighed without sending the matter back to the ZBA.
“While I’m sympathetic to a layover, to do the best service to the petition on both sides of the issue, I don’t know what purpose it would serve, since any new evidence that would be gathered we could not consider,” he noted.
But Aurand said he simply wants board members to have more time to visit the property, to determine whether they agree with the ZBA’s findings.
In committee, Steve Schultz (R-2) was among those who’d voted “no,” because he said more time was needed for study. Since then, he added, there’s been adequate time for review.
“We have had the last two weeks to evaluate this,” he argued. “I do believe it’s gonna create an economic hardship for this entity that’s asking for something that fits into the Ag District.”
Tom Owens (R-1) was among those who felt the layover request by District 3 board members should be honored.
“Any damage that’s done by a quick vote, a premature vote, would be much worse than laying it over,” Owens explained, but Yeske argued one could hardly call the vote premature.
“One thing we have to be careful of is getting in between two municipalities that should have border agreements,” Yeske said.
He explained the Gruenberg property is within South Beloit’s facilities planning area (FPA)—meaning South Beloit plans to eventually annex—and that the city has given its blessings for what the Gruenbergs are proposing.
Meantime, Roscoe’s desire to ink an annexation agreement appears to be holding the Gruenberg petition hostage, at least until Aug. 27, when the board next meets.
“I represent both those municipalities, and I don’t intend to start a border war,” Yeske added, pushing for an immediate vote.
In a 16-9 vote, the matter was laid over. Ted Biondo (R-9), Frank Gambino (R-14), Angie Goral (D-7), Karen Hoffman (D-11), Kinnison, Schultz, John F. Sweeney (R-14), Fred Wescott (R-9) and Yeske voted against the layover.
In another zoning matter, the board denied a variation to allow front-yard parking in an agricultural district.
Until having changed hands recently, West Quick Mart, 1002 Pierpont Ave., had been permitted to keep a gravel parking lot under a grandfather clause.
The property is owned by Odell B. Tidwell Sr., but the store operated by Nashwan Ali was effectively shut down by the County Board, at least for now, because the project to pave the parking lot did not match the submitted site plan, in violation of ordinance.
A variation would have essentially turned a blind eye to the mistake, but a number of board members insisted, rules are rules.
Despite recommendations for approval by the ZBA and Zoning Committee, the board voted down the request 16-9.
Some board members, however, were not aware their vote would decide whether the store would stay in business, so John Ekberg (R-10) moved to reconsider the matter.
Also favoring reconsideration, Rick Pollack (R-13) explained: “He was trying to conform with the ordinance, and it seems to me like, whether I’m for the business or not, it seems very unfair if you’ve got somebody putting up money, getting loans and trying to bring a business into compliance, and there’s a mistake made, and the business has to be shut down. I think that’s kind of harsh, myself.”
Rather than shutting the business down, Pollack explained he’d prefer offering time for the petitioners to bring the parking lot into compliance.
George Anne Duckett (D-12), however, argued laws are in place for a reason, and that excusing mistakes would be a dangerous road for the board to traverse.
“That’s not our fault [if the approved site plan wasn’t followed], and I’m sure he knows that,” Duckett said.
Noting earlier references to respecting the wishes of board members representing affected districts, L.C. Wilson reminded colleagues District 6 Democrats Pearl Hawks and Dorothy Redd are against the variation.
Hawks said her opposition is based on safety concerns at the intersection, but others simply wanted to reduce the number of liquor stores on the west side of Rockford.
Duckett asserted, “I don’t think people realize what alcohol does to the community that Pearl represents, but they have other facilities out there that sell alcohol, and I’m telling you all the west side needs no more alcohol.”
When the store opened, Hawks and Redd believed no alcohol would be sold there. Naturally, they were surprised to learn the convenience store had since been permitted to sell spirits.
The variation never made it back to the floor for reconsideration, however. Ekberg’s motion was defeated in a 15-10 vote. Aurand, Duckett, Dave Fiduccia (R-4), Angie Goral (D-7), Bob Hastings (D-13), Hawks, Karen Hoffman (D-11), Kyle Logan (R-3), Randy Olson (R-1), Mel Paris (D-8), Dianne Parvin (R-4), Steve Schultz (R-2), Dave Tassoni (D-7), Wilson and Dave Yeske (R-2) voted against reconsidering the variation.
From the Aug. 19-25, 2009 issue
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