The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

City Council Meeting 03/20/2012

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I watched last night’s city council meeting from home on Mediacom channel 16. For the second meeting in a row, the agenda was short.  Council approved the consent agenda unanimously before moving on to the general business agenda.

The first item (pdf) on the general business agenda was a special use permit to allow the construction of residential structures as permitted in an R-3 district in a secondary business district. The request concerns property located at 2251 S. Illinois Ave. Council approved the special use unanimously after council member Lance Jack proposed an amendment changing the layout of the buildings.

The next item (pdf), a request to rezone property at 7035 Old Highway 13 from AG (general agriculture) to PUD (planned unit development) was the thorniest item on the agenda. Council decided to table this item until the property can be surveyed. On page 2 of the staff memo (page 21 on the link above), you can read the zoning history of the property. I’ll briefly summarize.

When the current zoning ordinance was adopted in 1974, there were seven mobile homes and two houses on the property. The zoning ordinance classified the property as AG, and only one residential structure is permitted per lot in an AG district. Eight of the nine structures on the property in 1974 were considered legal non-conforming uses.

When the mobile homes on the property were reaching the end of their useful lives, the previous owner (who is now deceased) decided to build permanent structures to replace them. The zoning ordinance wouldn’t have allowed that and instead of seeking a rezoning, the owner began constructions with no permit from the city. The city soon learned that construction had started and issued a stop work order. This was in December of 1995.

In July of 1997, the city issued a permit allowing the property owner to complete construction of the buildings, but only for use as storage and with the condition that the buildings not be used for residential purposes. In December 1997, city staff inspected the buildings and learned they were being built as residences. The city issued another stop work order.

In May 2003, the city sent a letter to the previous owner stating that staff had observed continued construction and reminding the owner that the structures were not allowed to be used as residential structures. The previous owner requested rezoning to PUD in October 2003 but withdrew the request before council acted on it.

The current owner inherited the property from the previous owner and now wants to rezone it. In general, council would be unlikely to rezone a development that had already been built without permits and in defiance of the zoning ordinance. That kind of development is a challenge to the authority of the city. But in this case, the previous owner has died and it seems a little unfair to hold his heirs responsible for his mistakes.

If the history of the property was the only problem, I suspect council would have rezoned the property. But there is another potential problem. The setback requirements for residences are larger than the setback requirements for storage buildings and it’s not clear that the buildings on the property meet the setback requirements. If the buildings do not meet the setback requirements, they still couldn’t be used as residences even if council rezones the lot.

Since council didn’t have solid information on whether the structures meet the setback requirements, no action was taken on this item. The current property owner will have the land surveyed and city staff will measure the setbacks. Then the issue will come back to council.

The final two items on the general business agenda, one authorizing the mayor to execute an intergovernmental agreement with the Comptroller and the other one choosing a health insurance provider for city employees, passed unanimously. Citizen comments and council comments were brief and the closed session was cancelled.

Comments are welcome.

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Written by The Carbondale Observer

March 21, 2012 at 7:45 am

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