A handful of changes to the village zoning code will help streamline the approval process for more routine matters, according to local officials, while maintaining the public’s right to scrutinize those applications.
Village Administrator Mike Sturino’s list of six amendments to the zoning code will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals next month after village commissioners tentatively agreed to the changes. Among the proposed amendments is language to expand an internal hearings process allowing all residential property owners to go before the zoning administrator for an initial approval, rather than a public hearing with the zoning board. Garage repairs, lot coverage and public notices are also addressed in the proposed amendments.
Under the current zoning code, an administrative hearing can only be used to approve changes to a single-family home. Typically, these approvals are for projects that “do not increase the level of non-conformity,” according to a July 3 memo from Sturino to the village council. Since the administrative hearings process was first introduced in December of 2005, Sturino said there is now a need to afford other property owners the same convenience in part so that the zoning board isn’t bogged down with such matters.
Approvals from the zoning administrator must also be voted on by the council.
“We’re getting a volume of applications from two-flats, three-flats and four-flats,” Sturino said.
Commissioner Mike Curry is a former chairman of the zoning board, and said he agreed wholeheartedly with Sturino’s recommendations. The burden on the homeowner and the village for these applications is too much.
“We had a lot of issues that would come before the zoning board that I would think, ‘Why is this coming to the zoning board?'” Curry said.
The administrative hearings process is less expensive for residents because a court reporter is not required to record the minutes. Also, professional drawings are not needed, though the applicant will need blueprints for the council’s approval. Garages do not require blueprints, and the process is not restricted by the zoning board’s rigid meeting schedule.
“It eliminates the burden on homeowners,” Curry said.
After touting the need for greater transparency during his campaign for commissioner, Curry is proposing an amendment of his own. Public notice requirements should be expanded, he said, to include the posting of a sign on the affected property so that passing neighbors will be aware of the proposed changes.
In his memo, Sturino objected to the proposal on the basis that such signs will incur an additional expense for the village, which is already required to send certified letters to abutting property owners and purchase advertising space in local newspapers to alert the community.
Curry, however, said interested residents may not see those postings and that there is a precedent for requiring signs in other communities. As a real estate attorney, Curry said he first saw this practice several years ago in McHenry County.
“I understand Sturino’s position that the village is complying with state law,” Curry said. “My position is I think we should go above and beyond.”
Lot coverage requirements may also be changed, according to the memorandum viewed by council members. The village is also looking for clarification on what constitutes a given parcel’s coverage. For example, decks and covered porches are not included in calculations that determine whether a development has exceeded the maximum lot coverage.
“It is recommended that an analysis be conducted that would indicate whether lot coverage for small, non-conforming lots should be increased, and/or whether lot coverage in general should be re-evaluated for all lot sizes,” Sturino said in his memo.
The actual language of the amendments will be hashed out by village staff and presented to the zoning board, likely in August, Sturino said. From there, the council could see a final draft in September for approval.