Minutes of the Regular Meeting of the Gurnee Planning and Zoning Board - December 19, 2012


Village of Gurnee

Planning and Zoning Board Minutes

December 19, 2012


1. Call to Order and Roll Call

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 P.M.

Planning and Zoning Board Members Present:   Chairman James Sula, David Nordentoft, Sharon Salmons, Edwin Paff,  Richard Twitchell, Richard McFarlane

                             Planning and Zoning Board Members Absent:     Gwen Broughton

 Other Officials Present:   Tracy Velkover, Planning Manager; Ryan Mentkowski, Associate Planner; Bryan Winter, Village Attorney

2. Pledge of Allegiance

3. Public Comments

Chairman Sula asked if anyone from the public has any comments or questions regarding any item that is not on the agenda for this evening. As there were no comments or questions from the public, Chairman Sula closed the floor on this item.

4. Public Hearing:  Variation request at 2113 Maplewood Drive

Mr. Mentkowski stated that Mr. James Lange, the owner of property located at 2113 Maplewood Drive, is seeking a variance to allow a third car garage addition to encroach 4 feet into the required 30 foot front yard setback.  The addition would project 13 feet 5 inches to the north and 29 feet 9 inches toward the rear of the existing house.  He noted that Exhibit A is Mr. Lange’s application, Exhibit B is his supplemental information (including photos and a plat of survey), and Exhibit C is the      excerpt from the Zoning Ordinance on the variation process.

Mr. James Lange, the petitioner, stated that he lives at 2113 Maplewood Drive in Gurnee.  He stated that he works in Gurnee and plans to live in Gurnee for the rest of his life.  He stated that he would like to add a third bay to his garage, but that due his lot being on a sharp curve, the corner of the garage encroaches into the required front yard setback.  He stated that his lot has a large front yard and is pie shaped due to its location on the curve.   He indicated that if he was to set the garage back to meet the front yard setback he would then have an issue with his side yard setback.   He also noted that there is a shed in that area that would have to be moved because of a requirement that the shed has to be a certain distance from the house.  He noted that there would still be 30 feet between his home and the home to the north after the addition is constructed.   He noted that he is working to restore a car with his son and the 13.5 foot width proposed for the garage addition is the minimum needed to open the              doors on the car that he is restoring.

Mr. Tom Wolf of 2125 Maplewood and Mr. Lange's neighbor immediately to the north stated he has no objections to the Mr. Lange's petition. 

Chairman Sula noted that this is the first variance that the Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) has reviewed, so he thinks that the best approach is to go through each standard and determine whether the petition can meet the standard or not.  If the Board comes to a standard that cannot be met then he believes that the variance cannot be recommended since all of the standards are required to be met.  He noted that the hardship standard might be the most difficult to meet.  He asked the Village Attorney if these statements are correct and that they need to meet all nine. 

Mr. Bryan Winter, the Village Attorney, stated that the Board technically has to meet the nine standards but the Board can consider what is unique and what a typical lot is.  He noted that in respect to hardship, each member will have to consider their own analysis, but the focus of hardship could be whether the proposal could be accomplished if the lot was typical shape and a typical lot size.  He stated that there is a bigger issue to consider which is whether to allow more space than the interior would allow and is noted as factual information the Board could consider.

Mr. Sula started the consideration of the nine variation standards as required by Article 13.9.3 of the Zoning Ordinance starting at the first standard (#1), which states “that the particular physical surrounding, shape, or topographical condition of the specific property involved would result in a particular hardship upon the owner, as distinguished from a mere inconvenience, if the strict letter of the regulations were carried out.”

Mr. Sula noted that the garage is longer than a one car bay and the garage could be stepped back from the front in order to conform to the front yard setback.  He also stated that the Board needs to determine whether what Mr. Lange is trying to do and how he is trying to do it presents a hardship, or merely an inconvenience.

Mr. Nordentoft stated that he is in line with what the petitioner has proposed in the application.  He stated that after looking at other lots in the neighborhood and considering the typical lots in the area are mostly rectangular, he feels that what Mr. Lange is trying to accomplish would not be an issue. He stated that many of the lots in the neighborhood average 85-90 feet of width and the existing house is just over 55 feet wide.  He stated that if you took the proposed addition into account for a typical lot that is 85-90 feet wide, the Board would not even have to review the proposal because he would be able to meet the side and front setbacks for these typical lots.  He stated that a three car garage was a typical feature in the Village of Gurnee.  He stated the issues are due to the atypical nature of Mr. Lange's lot and doesn’t see an issue with the proposal.

Mr. Paff stated that at first he was in favor of the petition, but after looking at the neighborhood he felt that very few lots could even accommodate a three car garage (like lots 176 or 177).  He stated that because Mr. Lange’s lot is wider that most, he would likely have an easier time adding a third bay to his garage than many other residents in that neighborhood because he can step the garage back.  He then stated that the Board should look closer at variation standard #7 which asks if the variation granted is the minimum adjustment necessary for the reasonable use of the land. 

Mr. Lange stated that he kept the addition to his garage in line with the rest of the garage to keep with the architectural look of the neighborhood.  He stated that there is another home in the neighborhood with an added third bay to its garage and is in line with other two garage doors.  He noted that the additional depth of the garage addition is due to a previous addition of a mud room and kitchen to the home.

Mr. Twitchell stated that the request for the variance appears to be more of an inconvenience issue for the petitioner than a hardship.  He then stated that when looking at the small size of the existing two-car garage, he can see how it may be considered more of a hardship because of the existing conditions.

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #2, that “the conditions upon which the petition for a variation is based are unique to the property for which the variation is sought and are not applicable, generally, to other property within the same zoning classification.”

Mr. Twitchell stated “that’s a given” to the application meeting variation standard #2.

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #3, “that the purpose of the variation is not based exclusively upon a desire to make more money out of the property”.

Mr. McFarlane stated he did not have any problem with this standard and that the application met variation standard #3.

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #4, “that the alleged difficulty or hardship is caused by the Ordinance and has not been created by any person presently having an interest in the property.”  He also noted that the application was made by the property owner and therefore that person has an interest in the property.

[No PZB members formally stated they disagreed with the application meeting variation standard #4.]

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #5, “that the proposed variation will not impair an adequate supply of light and air to adjacent property or substantially increase congestion in the public streets or increase the danger of fire, or endanger the public safety, or substantially diminish or impair property values within the adjacent neighborhood.”

[No PZB members formally stated they disagreed with the application meeting variation standard #5.]

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #6, “that the variation does not permit a use otherwise excluded from the particular zone in which requested except for uses authorized by the Zoning Board, subject to the approval of the Village Board, as "similar and compatible uses."  He also noted that the garage is a permitted use in the zoning district.

[No PZB members formally stated they disagreed with the application meeting variation standard #6.]

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #7, “that the variation granted is the minimum adjustment necessary for the reasonable use of the land.”

Mr. Twitchell stated this standard is questionable because as the Chairman had previously pointed out, the garage could be smaller or set back 4 feet from the front and then the applicant would not need to even need a variation.

Mr. McFarlane stated he looked at this standard in the perspective of whether or not the variation is reasonable.  He stated that he didn’t feel that what was proposed was unreasonable and it must not be a concern with the neighbors because there were no other people who spoke against the proposal tonight.

Mr. Winter stated that the framework the PZB is using to look at the variation is a good framework.  He stated there is no one answer in terms of these discussions.  He stated that the PZB could look at the minimum adjustment to have useable additional garage space and if that’s what the PZB feels comfortable (with), that is sufficient.

Mr. Lange stated that the original plan proposed was to step the garage back from the front elevation.  He stated that it created an awkward appearance in roof lines.  He also stated that he initially planned for a 16.5 foot-wide addition to the garage which would have had to been stepped back from the front house 6 feet in order to meet the front yard setback.  He stated he reduced the width to 13.5 feet in order to minimize the variance and avoid the removal of a tree that his spouse wanted saved.    

Mr. Mentkowski stated that per the GIS system, the applicant would have to set back the proposed garage 5 feet from the front building elevation in order to eliminate the need for a variation.

Multiple members of the PZB and staff clarified the difference between the 5 foot step back and the requested variation of 4 feet.  The variation is due to the triangle piece of the garage that encroaches into the front yard setback.  The 5 foot step back was the minimum distance required for the garage to be moved back in order to meet the front yard setback.

Ms. Salmons asked if the parking pad that is currently there would be where the garage is proposed and if the pad meets the setback standards.

Mr. Lange responded that the proposed garage would be slightly wider than the existing pad and that the pad does currently meet the setback standards. 

Mr. Sula noted that a parking pad has different setbacks than a structure, and that once a structure is constructed over the pad the front yard setback becomes an issue.

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #8, “that the granting of any variation is in harmony with the general purposes and intent of the Zoning Ordinance, and will not be injurious to the neighborhood, be detrimental to the public welfare, alter the essential character of the locality, or be in conflict with the Comprehensive Plan for development of the Village”. 

[No PZB members formally stated they disagreed with the application meeting variation standard #8.]

Mr. Sula asked if everyone agreed that this application meets variation standard #9, “that, for reasons fully set forth in the recommendations of the Zoning Board, and the report of the Village Board, the aforesaid circumstances or conditions are such that the strict application of the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance would deprive the applicant of any reasonable use of his land.  Mere loss in value shall not justify a variation; there must be a deprivation of beneficial use of land.”

Mr. Twitchell stated that he felt that variation standard #9 is the toughest standard to meet.

Mr. Lange stated that he looks at this standard as a question of whether he is asking for something unreasonable.  He asked if it is reasonable to add 13 feet to the existing garage.  He stated he felt that this request was not unreasonable.

Mr. Sula restated that they are going through all of these questions because they have not reviewed a variation application in a long time and want to make sure they are following the right steps.

Mr. Winter added that the purpose of the variation application was not necessarily to figure out a way where somebody doesn’t have to ask for the variation because if this is the ultimate standard used by the PZB there would not be a purpose for having a variation process.  He stated the PZB is doing a good job considering all the standards.  He also stated that the PZB needs to focus on the use for the variation on this parcel and not just globally because it is too simple to say we know it is a residential lot.  He further clarified that the PZB needs to focus in on the question of: is this variation reasonable?

Mr. Mentkowski read a letter into record that was provided by Mr. Lange prior to the meeting tonight.  The letter was written by Paul and Sheila Bunnell of 2149 Maplewood Drive and dated 12/11/2012. It stated that as neighbors of the Lange’s they have no objection to the petition of James Lange to allow an encroachment of 4 feet into his front yard easement.

Mr. Twitchell stated concern that, as standard #9 is written, he feels it would be almost impossible for anyone to meet these standards without being deprived of the reasonable use of their land due to existing conditions.  He stated that even farm land is reasonable use of land.  He stated that he looked at this particular property, at this particular point in time.  He stated that he hopes there will be modifications to the wording of these standards so as to avoid situations in which there is no "out" within a current situation. 

Mr. Sula stated he generally agrees with Mr. Twitchell’s statements.  He stated that we are looking at a small variance of about 10 square feet and didn’t see an issue with the proposal.  He stated that while they belabored through all the variation standards, he felt that it was necessary for the PZB to address each standard by itself and to ensure understanding of what a hardship is.

Mr. Nordentoft stated that he agrees with the Chairman and believed that the PZB has done its due diligence on the proposal and is prepared to advance a motion.  

Mr. Nordentoft made a motion, seconded by Ms. Salmons, to forward a favorable recommendation for the variation request at 2113 Maplewood Drive, seeing that it does meet the standards as discussed tonight, with the materials as presented tonight, and as testified this evening.

Roll Call:

Ayes:       Nordentoft, Salmons, Paff, Twitchell, McFarlane, Sula

Nays:       None

Abstain:   None        

Motion Carried:    6-0-0

5. Next Meeting Date:  January 2, 2013

Chairman Sula noted that the next PZB meeting is set for January 2, 2013.  He asked if there was anything on the agenda at this time.  Ms. Velkover stated that there might be a minor sign exception for this meeting.

6. Adjournment

Chairman Sula asked for motion to adjourn.

Mr. McFarlane made a motion, seconded by Mr. Nordentoft, to adjourn the meeting.

Voice Vote:

All "Ayes", no "Nays", none abstaining

Motion carried 6-0-0

The Meeting was adjourned at 8:35 P.M.

Respectfully Submitted:


Joann Metzger
Planning & Zoning Board Secretary