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Rockford aldermen take first step in casino zoning

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – The Rockford Code & Regulation Committee, on Monday, approved a text amendment to add casinos to the city’s zoning ordinances. 

The vote will send the amendment to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and if approved there, it would move on to the full city council. If it gets a blessing there, casinos would be allowed in three of the city’s four commercial zoning districts: C-2, C-3 and C-4. Gaming facilities would not be allowed on properties zoned C-1.

“Our C-1 district is our limited-office district,” Zoning and Land Use administrator Scott Capovilla said. “Professional offices are permitted in those areas – things like accounting, medical and dental offices. In our C-2 district, which is more of a limited commercial district, and the most widely zoned commercial district throughout the city of Rockford, (a casino)  would be permissible. The C-3 district is our general commercial district. That tends to be more of the large shopping-center type developments and auto-related uses, fast-food drive-throughs, auto-repair facilities – places like that. The C-4 district (includes) our downtown area, areas along Seventh Street and Broadway. The C-4 district is a mixed-use district, so it allows for a variety of different uses.”

Capovilla added that a casino would complement sports and recreation that currently occurs in the three commercial districts. 

Legal Director Nick Meyer said the amendment codifies the existing ordinances to include casinos, a need the city has never had before this year. And because staff must submit certified casino proposals to state gaming officials by Oct. 25, the ordinances must be in place now.

“We are on a tight time frame,” Meyer said. “So, it is in our interest to make the zoning process as easy as possible for all of the applicants so we don’t get bogged down in any zoning type issues. We are covering our bases to make sure it’s in writing so all parties understand what our zoning rules are.”

While other applicants are expected to respond to the city’s request for proposal (RFP), only one has made their’s public. A group that includes Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen announced last week their intention to submit a proposal to build a Hard Rock Casino at 7801 E. State St., the site of the former Clock Tower Resort, which is zoned C-3. Applicants have until Aug. 16 to submit proposals. A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23. 

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