Minutes of the Joint Meeting of the Gurnee Plan Commission (old) - March 7, 2012

Village of Gurnee

Joint Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes

March 7, 2012


The meeting was called to order at 7:48 P.M.

Plan Commission Members Present:             Chairman James Sula, David Nordentoft, Richard McFarlane, Sharon Salmons, Gwen Broughton, Patrick Drennan

Plan Commission Members Absent:               None.

Zoning Board of Appeals Members Present:  Edwin Paff, John Spadaro, Jerry Kolar, Robert Monahan, Richard Twitchell

Zoning Board of Appeals Members Absent:   Chairman Tom Hood, Don Wilson

Other Officials Present:          Bryan Winter, Village Attorney; David Ziegler, Director of Community Development; Tracy Velkover, Planning Manager; Molly Booth, Associate Planner; Ryan Mentkowski, Associate Planner

Mr. Spadaro made a motion, seconded by Mr. Kolar, to elect Mr. Paff as Chairman Pro-tem.

1. Approval of Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for November 16, 2011. (ZBA only)

Mr. Spadaro made a motion, seconded by Mr. Monahan, to approve the Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for November 16, 2011.

Roll Call          

Ayes:                Paff, Spadaro, Wilson, Kolar, Monahan, Twitchell

Nays:               None


Motion Carried:          6-0-0


2. Public Hearing: Text Amendments to the Gurnee Zoning Ordinance
Ms. Velkover stated the Commissions are here this evening to talk about either the consolidation of the Zoning Board Appeals (ZBA) with the Plan Commission or possibly the elimination of the ZBA. She stated on June 27, 2011 the Village Board at the Committee of the Whole Meeting discussed the roles of the Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. She stated specifically, Trustee Park suggested that the efficiency of the planning entitlement process might be improved by either eliminating the ZBA or combining the Plan Commission and ZBA into a smaller board. She stated on August 15, 2011 after the Committee of the Whole Meeting this was discussed further and voted unanimously to the direct staff to hold a joint Public Hearing with the Plan Commission and ZBA to consider the elimination of the ZBA or the combining of this board with the Plan Commission.

Ms. Velkover stated at this meeting the Village Board directed Staff to survey other communities’ to determine whether they have a combined or separate board, determine their experiences with a combined or separate board, either pro or con, and determine the size of their board(s). She stated they also wanted Staff to identify the benefits and drawbacks of a combined and separate board and explore the legality of a combined board.

Ms. Velkover stated Staff surveyed 30 communities in the Chicago metro area. She stated all the communities surveyed that recently made changes chose to combine their two boards into one versus change from a combined board to two separate boards. She stated most communities Staff surveyed with a combined board spoke favorably of the experience. She stated some of things identified as a benefit was a less confusing process/more streamlined process for business owners, property owners, and developers; greater efficiency for Staff; the elimination of duplication of work/materials and due to the reduced duplication, a reduced cost for the Village and the community.

Ms. Velkover stated of the 30 communities Staff surveyed 17 communities have combined boards; 9 have separate boards; 4 have separate boards (2 have boards that meet on the same night and are composed of the same members; and 2 have boards that meet on the same night and have the same members with the exception that one of their boards has 2 additional members that do not sit on the other board).

Ms. Velkover stated for 21 of the communities Staff surveyed with combined boards one community has 11 members on the Board; four of the communities have 9 members on the Board; and sixteen communities have 7 members on the Board.

Ms. Velkover stated per the directive of the Village Board, they wanted Staff to identify the benefits and drawbacks of a combined Board.  She stated some of the benefits Staff did identify through the survey process and the experience of other communities are the increased efficiencies associated with review of Text Amendments. She stated specifically the ZBA, through no fault of their own, does not have the experience with the Zoning Ordinance that the Plan Commission does. She stated typically the ZBA only meets one time per year to review variances with most of those variances being setbacks. She stated this is a more narrowed focus that the ZBA has with their experience with Zoning Ordinances. She stated it takes time to get the ZBA up to speed in terms of floor area ratios, impervious surface ratios, what a reverse corner lot is, and what a through-lot is, and the Sign Code. She stated most of the ZBA experience is with variances, with most of those variances being setback related. She stated the Plan Commission deals with signs almost every meeting and through every petition.

Ms. Velkover stated other benefits identified by Staff create savings associated with member and minute taker pay, folding everything in the same Plan Commission meeting, so it would be the same Plan Commission meeting and the payment to the Plan Commission members and minute taker. She stated potentially it would be a joint body that would be smaller than the combined Boards. She stated this also provides for a timelier posting of meeting minutes. She noted many times the ZBA only meets one time a year in terms of their specific roles and duties and in terms of reviewing variances. She stated when there is a Joint Meeting or Public Hearing that often times the meeting minutes cannot be posted until they are approved by both Boards and with the ZBA only meeting once, twice or three times a year it can delay the posting of those minutes. She stated many times the Public demands those minutes in a timely fashion. She noted for tonight’s Agenda that the Joint Public Hearing meeting minutes from November 16, 2011 were just approved, thus the delay. She stated the Plan Commission had approved these same minutes within 2-3 weeks from the original meeting. She stated it would also streamline projects that require review by both the Plan Commission and ZBA noting it would be one body to come before. She stated it also eliminates the potential for conflicting recommendations from when two bodies review and it would provide a clear direction for business owners and property owners within the Village. She stated another item identified by Staff is that it increases Staff efficiency by eliminating the preparation of separate agendas, board packets, minutes and notes, as well as the posting of separate agendas and meeting minutes to the Village’s website. She stated it also eliminates the delivery time/cost associated with Village Community Service Officer’s delivery of packets which is time and money that could be saved. She stated it also helps ensure that all board members’ opinions are heard noting when there are 14 members present with only 10 microphones it is difficult for everyone’s opinions to be heard. She stated in addition, it makes is easier to obtain a quorum with one board versus two separate boards when providing recommendations to the Village Board.

Ms. Velkover stated some of the drawbacks Staff identified with combining the Boards are that it would eliminate the opportunity for more residents to become involved in the community and that is somewhat of a concern. She stated it also would eliminate the diversification of duties, thus being handled by the same members, whether it would be 7, 9, or 11 members or whatever the recommendation would be, and it eliminates the community’s ability to benefit from the input/opinions of more individuals.

Ms. Velkover stated in terms of the legality of a combined Board, Illinois State Law mandates that municipalities have a  Board/Commission to address Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Subdivision Plats and after that the communities have flexibility whether a community wants to have a Plan Commission or a ZBA to consider rezoning, special uses, PUDs, variances, and appeals. She stated this is something that is legally possible.

Ms. Velkover stated that on tonight’s Agenda there are two drafts before the Commission. She stated the first draft is simply the elimination of the ZBA with the second draft being much more involved that concerns the administrative chapter of the Zoning Ordinance along with more in depth changes that Staff would like to make. She stated if there is issue with the more in depth changes Staff would like to consider the combination of the Plan Commission and ZBA into one Board. She stated this is the reason for the two separate draft Ordinances.

Ms. Velkover stated the first draft simply deletes the ZBA and all of their duties; renames the Plan Commission due to potentially combining the duties of the Plan Commission and ZBA; renames to the Planning & Zoning Board; and it would insert language regarding membership of the Planning and Zoning Board.  She stated currently there is language regarding membership of the Zoning Board but there is no language for members of the Plan Commission.  She stated Staff would take the current language for the Zoning Board and use that same language for the Planning & Zoning Board. She stated Staff is recommending based on the experience of other communities and especially from a quorum standpoint to have a 7 member Board. She stated all of this is open for discussion. She stated the first draft also folds the duties and responsibilities of the ZBA into the Planning and Zoning Board and those duties include the Appeals process, variances, and text amendments which were already in the prevue of the Plan Commission or the Planning and Zoning Board. She stated Staff is proposing to revise the “Similar and Compatible Uses” section to eliminate the ZBA from the process if they are no longer going to exist; elimination of language from the “Stay Proceedings” at the recommendation of the Village Attorney; modifying the list of Authorized Variances which includes to delete variances for sign size increases in order to match with the Sign Code language; to add variations for lighting provisions per the Exterior Lighting Ord. (8.12); adding variation for Personal Wireless Service Facilities (PWSF) as specified in the PWSF Ord. (8.14); and to add a stipulation that Special Use Permits automatically expire if the Use for which it was granted is discontinued for one consecutive year. She stated most communities have language like this and noted unfortunately it was not included in the Village Code. She stated due to past issues with Uses where the Village had granted a Special Use questions arose whether the Special Use was still valid after the original recipient had vacated the property.

Ms. Velkover stated the second draft includes everything that has been discussed so far and includes more substantial items that Staff wants to address and change. She stated those items include: remove the requirement that the Zoning Administrator map and keep a record of all non-conforming uses in the Village. She stated the reason for removing this is that it is not practical for the Zoning Administrator to have and keep this information up to date. She stated up to this point they do not have this information and the time and effort it would take at this point is prohibitive; to add a provision that the Zoning Administrator can render interpretations to the Zoning Ordinance, including Use interpretations; removing homeowner’s associations from the notification requirement for pending zoning matters. She stated if a homeowner’s association falls within the 500 foot distance that is noticed for property owners they would get noticed, however if they are outside of this distance Staff would no longer notice them; to change the terminology for Zoning Certificate to Certificate of Occupancy as this is what is actually issued; to eliminate the clause that indicates that the Planning & Zoning Board is an advisory board, since they have final say and decision making authority in minor sign exceptions; to delete from the jurisdiction of the Village Board the ability to make determinations on “similar and compatible” because Staff is proposing to eliminate the “Similar and Compatible Use” section entirely; to rewrite the “Interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance” section to clarify the process and specify that the Zoning Administrator can make Use interpretations subject to specific standards. She stated currently the process is if a Use is not specifically listed, the petitioner would have to come before the Village and request “Similar and Compatible” which is basically a process that is a Special Use where the Use can be added and only added as a Special Use and come before the ZBA and Plan Commission with no real leeway for the Zoning Administrator to look at Uses that are not actually listed in the Zoning Code.

She stated by proposing to remove the “Similar and Compatible” Use section and write into the interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance section very specific language that would give the Zoning Administrator the authority to make Use interpretations. She stated there are very specific Standards that the Zoning Administrator would have to meet. She noted those specific Standards include that the Zoning Administrator could make no Use interpretation with regard to home occupations given with respect to residential district.  She stated the Zoning Administrator could never make determinations regarding home occupation and that it would have to be a listed home occupation noting if there were any questions, it would not be allowed.  She stated any Use that is defined in the Code would be interpreted as defined and the Zoning Administrator cannot make a separate determination or definition. She stated no Use Interpretation shall permit a Use that is listed as a Permitted or Special Use in any District to be established in a different District in which said Use is not listed. This means if, for example, a pet day care center is being listed in specific zoning districts, the Zoning Administrator is not able to make the interpretation that it could go into another Zoning District that it is not in.

She stated if it is actually listed somewhere in the Zoning Code it must abide by the zoning for what districts it is in. She stated the only way it could get into a separate district would be to request a Text Amendment.  She stated no Use interpretation shall be allowed in any district unless evidence presented demonstrates that it will comply with the site and structure provisions established for that district and it must meet the bulk, size standards, setback standards and parking requirements. She stated if the proposed Use is most similar to a Use Permitted only as a Special Use Permit in the District, then the Zoning Administrator can only make the determination that it is allowed as a Special Use, not pulling it into a Permitted Use category. She stated subject to the foregoing conditions and limitations the Zoning Administrator may render Use interpretations, but can refer to the most recent publication of the North American Industrial Classification System and the Use classification methodology used therein as a reference. She stated there is a reference point for the Zoning Administrator to go back over to take a look to see how this Use is classified, specifically referencing this document.

Ms. Velkover stated the other proposed changes Staff is looking to make with this draft is to clarify the Appeals process; including a stipulation that the time frame for review of a variation starts upon the submission of a complete application and the Board’s findings shall occur after the conclusion of the Public Hearing; to clarify that Use variances are not allowed; to clarify that variances are good for 12 months and when a building permit is necessary, until the expiration of the building permit, and completing the building permit in the timely fashion allowed for which the variance would start at that point;  to provide an organizational title for Text Amendment subsections which clarifies that the Zoning Ordinance is to be amended to reflect any successful text amendment; to delete language from the “Purpose of Special Use Permits” per the recommendation of the Village Attorney; and to clarify the time frame for a Special Use Permit both when construction and no construction is involved.

Chairman Sula commended Staff for a very good job in presenting, and he is supportive of the materials as presented.

Chairman Sula asked for comments or questions from the Commission.

Mr. Nordentoft also commended Staff for doing a very good job of assembling this package and doing their due-diligence while being thoughtful in the process. He stated he supports Agenda # 5 as he believes there is a lot of housekeeping being taken care of and believes to handle all of these items individually would be a daunting process.

Chairman Paff Pro-temp asked for comments of questions from the ZBA.

Mr. Spadaro stated he commends the Village Staff for doing a great job and that he also supports the combined Board.

Chairman Paff Pro-tem stated this also makes sense to him and asked if the ZBA was always required by law to be involved in the text amendments.

Mr. Winter responded that it was originally outlined in the Zoning Board notes. He stated there was a time where the thought was for some of these requests being distinctive and you could have two boards. He stated currently where the Village is at with the point of growth and being built out, one can see that the frequencies of the ZBA has diminished over time and there is no legal requirement that it has to continue as a separate Board.

Chairman Pro-tem Paff stated he is in favor of a combined Board of 7 members.

Mr. Twitchell noted a change needed to the language in the header on page 6 “finality of decisions of the Village Trustees” should be Board of Trustees.

Chairman Sula asked the Plan Commission for a motion on Agenda item # 5 as described.

Mr. McFarlane made a motion, seconded by Mr. Nordentoft, for a favorable recommendation for approval of Agenda Item # 5 as presented, with the suggested wording revision.

Roll Call

Ayes:                            Sula, Nordentoft, McFarlane, Broughton, Salmons, Drennan

Nays:                           None

Abstain:                       None

Motion Carried:          6-0-0

Pro-tem Chairman Paff asked the ZBA for a motion.

Mr. Spadaro made a motion, seconded by Mr. Twitchell, for a favorable recommendation for the approval of Agenda Item # 5 as presented, with the suggested wording revision.

Roll Call                       Paff, Spadaro, Kolar, Monahan, Twitchell

Ayes:                            None

Nays:                           None

Abstain:                       None

Motion Carried:          5-0-0

Chairman Sula asked for motion to adjourn.

Ms. Salmons made a motion, seconded by Ms. Broughton, to adjourn.

The Meeting was adjourned at 8:25 P.M.

Respectfully Submitted:

Joanne Havenhill
Plan Commission Secretary