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Government

DuPage County judge dismisses Elmhurst hoop house lawsuit

Elmhurst resident Nicole Virgil talks Jan. 18 about the hoop house in her family's backyard. A DuPage County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Virgil family after it was forced to take down its hoop house because the city of Elmhurst found the structure was in violation of city code.
Elmhurst resident Nicole Virgil talks Jan. 18 about the hoop house in her family's backyard. A DuPage County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Virgil family after it was forced to take down its hoop house because the city of Elmhurst found the structure was in violation of city code.

ELMHURST – A DuPage County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Elmhurst family after it was forced to take down its hoop house because the city found the structure was in violation of city code.

The Virgil family was ordered by the city of Elmhurst earlier this year to take down the hoop house in its backyard in the 500 block of Fairview Avenue or face fines. The structure, which is a temporary gardening structure used to extend the growing season into winter, was found to be in violation of city code at a hearing Jan. 24 in front of an administrative judge.

After much public comment, council discussion and controversy, the hoop house was taken down Feb. 24 to eliminate the threat of city-imposed fines.

Assistant City Manager Michael Kopp said in a phone interview Dec. 19 that Judge Paul Fullerton had agreed with the adjudicator that the hoop house was not allowed by Elmhurst's Building and Zoning Code.

"Per our code, membrane structures are not allowed. ... And then our building code also requires what a building is, and the material that it's made of and how it's fastened to the ground, and it doesn't meet those either," Kopp said.

There is a referral to the city's Development, Planning and Zoning Committee to look at hoop houses, he said. The committee had announced at its Aug. 28 meeting that it would delay discussing hoop houses until the conclusion of the lawsuit against the city.

"They have 30 days to appeal it," Kopp said. "So for at least another 30 days, we're not going to do anything. And then it's up to the committee how they want to address it."

Nicole Virgil said in a phone interview Dec. 16 that their supporters are "very, very charged up and enthusiastic," so they are thinking about pursuing the legislative course of action, but she is unsure at this point.

"It's not how residents should be treated," she said. "It's not how government should operate. It leaves a bad stain on Elmhurst."

Virgil said when she and her husband were house shopping in 1999, they were looking for an area to raise their children where they could have "a sense of community and safety."

"We elected very deliberately to avoid [homeowner's associations] or condominiums or townhouses where you would be strictly regulated on what kind of bushes you could put in your yard or things like that. ... We didn't know what we wanted to do, but we knew we're kind of 'do-it-yourself-ers' and we like to have freedom, so we avoided on purpose living in any kind of community or area where you have to sign away rights to that sort of thing. ... I'm sorry to say that that doesn't really exist here [in Elmhurst]," she said.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2018.

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