After more than an hour of discussion, debate and public comment the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) voted 4-2 with one abstention Monday night to recommend that the village council reject a staff recommendation to create a new position of zoning administrator.

The proposed text amendment to the village’s zoning code would give the position to the village’s director of public health and safety, currently Mike Boyle.

The zoning administrator would have authority to hear minor zoning cases such as when a homeowner wants to replace an existing non-conforming garage with a new garage of the same size or to expand an existing non-conforming house without seeking to increase lot coverage in excess of the village’s requirements.

If the amendment is adopted by the village council such cases, after the required public notice, would go to a public hearing before the zoning administrator rather than before the seven member zoning board of appeals. The zoning administrator would make a recommendation to the village council which would, as under the current ordinance, have the final say.

The purpose of the new position would be to reduce the workload on the zoning board of appeals and let the ZBA concentrate of more important cases. ZBA meetings have been running later and later in recent months, with one meeting this summer lasting until past midnight.

However Richard Scafidi, William Plum, Bill McKenzie and Jolyn Crawford voted against the proposal, feeling that it was better to remain with the current system of the ZBA hearing all cases. ZBA chairman Michael Curry and Al Bucholtz voted in favor of the proposal and Ray Paulin abstained.

“I just philosophically believe in more public exposure,” said Scafidi. Opponents of the proposal warned of a slippery slope that would lead to more and more cases being handled by the zoning administrator rather than the full ZBA.

Steve Backman, a self described zoning board groupie, opposed the proposal.

“I am concerned about the slippery slope,” said Backman. “We don’t know where this could go.”

It was a difficult vote as most members of the ZBA appeared to be trying to make up minds as their name was called to vote. But the majority rejected a chance to reduce their own workload and shorten their meetings. Jolyn Crawford expressed concerned about putting the responsibility of conducting a public hearing and making a recommendation to the village council on a staff person.

The village council will make the final determination whether to adopt the amendment and create the new position.

Twenty-five foot lots

Dealing with an issue that is bound to recur frequently, the ZBA unanimously voted to grant a variance to Tom Liss to construct a new home on a 25 foot lot at 1414 Marengo that was not vacant as of June 27, 2005, but limited the permissible lot coverage to 44 percent of the lot rather than the 48 percent requested by Liss.

On June 27, the village council voted to require that new homes on lots of record that were not vacant at that time be built of lots of 50 feet or larger in areas zoned R-1. There is currently a garage and a fence of the lot at 1414 Marengo. Liss lives next to the lot and wants to build a new house and sell his current home.

The problem is that is difficult, if not impossible, to build a modern sized home on a 25 foot lot without exceeding the village’s setback and lot coverage requirements. The village currently requires lot coverage to be no more than 40 percent. Liss proposed building a two story three bedroom 2.5 bath home with a garage.

“I want to build a house that is suitable for generations to come,” Liss told the ZBA. “What I’m asking for is not out of character for the neighborhood. I don’t want to be building a house smaller than what I have right now.”

If the village council follows the recommendation of the ZBA, Liss will be forced to downsize his plans for his new house. Liss declined to comment on the ZBA’s vote after the meeting.

Plan commission member Bill Kirchner urged that the ZBA reassess the village’s lot coverage requirements that he said makes it impossible to build a decent sized home on a 25 foot lot.

“We can’t get a 2,000 square foot house on a 25 foot lot, (under existing requirements)” Kirchner said. “We have to look at the lot coverage so that we can get an appropriate sized house and garage.”