FOX RIVER GROVE – In an effort to avoid future litigation over the construction of a public works garage, the Fox River Grove Village Board has put into place an ordinance that strengthens its zoning code.
Specifically, the new ordinance no longer requires the village to obtain special use permits or variances when building a municipal structure.
“The overall concept is to essentially put the village in a better position from a legal standpoint, to not be open to a lawsuit as with the last location for a public works garage,” said Village Administrator Derek Soderholm at Thursday’s board meeting.
When the village decided to build a public works garage on County Line Road, it was met with resistance from nearby residents, who eventually sued. The project was delayed, and the village has since opted to build the new garage along Hillcrest Avenue next to its wastewater treatment plant.
The new ordinance was originally proposed to keep the Zoning Board of Appeals out of the approval process for municipal structure construction. However, after discussion, the board decided to allow for the zoning board to offer its comments on any proposed municipal structure.
“It would be opportunity for public comment related to the plans, just not in the context of a special use permit or a variance,” Soderholm said.
The village has purchased property near the wastewater treatment plant to allow for an expansion of the plant to meet future Illinois Environmental Protection Agency requirements and to allow for the construction of the public works garage.
Gig Weber, who is a member of the zoning board, objected to the ordinance the way it was originally proposed because it exempts the village from adhering to zoning and building requirements, he said.
“It absolves you from setbacks,” Weber said. “You can build it as tall as you want, you can build it right on the property line if you want. ... If you pass this ordinance, it gives you guys free rein.”
Trustee Steve Knar said the village would be a good neighbor when it builds its public works garage and expands its wastewater treatment plant.
“It needs to be built somewhere,” Knar said. “I think we’re going to be sensitive to the neighbors. ... We’re residents of this town too. ... We’re doing everything right to make sure we accommodate the neighbors. Those discussions are taking place in the background already of what we can do to make it easier on the residents.”
Trustee Michael Schiestel was the lone trustee to vote against the ordinance.
“My concern is if we adopt this ... I feel it does two things: One it takes out a public entity, the zoning board and what they do, and two, is it puts the perception of a lack of transparency,” Schiestel said.
No matter the process Fox River Grove has in place, the Village Board can ultimately grant itself the necessary permission to allow for a project to go forward.
Having this ordinance in place helps protect the village legally, trustees said.
“We [wasted] money, thousands of dollars, because of a legal suit we can’t defend [against] because our zoning ordinance is not appropriate,” said Trustee Joanna Colletti. “We’re not building willy nilly every week, every month, every year, building facilities in our town. We know we need structures. We’re going to build them for a purpose.”