Duplex zoning

By Bob Balgemann


Plans to build a duplex on Wayne Drive once again have brought varied opinions from decision-makers in the village.

This time it was the village board in the spotlight and it voted 4-2 July 18, on first reading and with one absent, to deny a rezoning request to allow construction of the two-family home on a 15,862-square-foot lot.

A defeat on first reading means the issue won’t more forward for a second and final reading.

Earlier in the process, the planning and zoning commission voted 7-0 to recommend denial of the request to rezone the property from R-1, single-family residential, to R-2, multi-family residential.

But in a subsequent meeting the planning and economic development committee (PED) recommended approval in a voice that had one opponent. PED is one of three standing committees of the village board, with each having three trustees as members.

Village staff also recommended approval of the rezoning. Staff believed R-2 was an appropriate transition from the R-3 zoning along North Second Street and adjacent single-family neighborhood.

But two residents of that neighborhood didn’t agree and they addressed the agenda item during the communications portion of the meeting.

William Stivers spoke first, initially asking questions about the project. He was told by Village Clerk Lori Mitchell to stay after the meeting and discuss his queries with staff.

He resumed his comments by saying his was a crime-free neighborhood and how that would change should a duplex be constructed.

Currently he has left his garage door open overnight, but he claimed he would be afraid to do that should there be a duplex a couple of doors down the street.

Stivers attempted to ask another question and was told, again, to take it up with staff at a later time.

The resident continued his concern about a duplex causing decreasing property values and that he didn’t understand how it would be a buffer between him and other residents with businesses and how it would “improve the fabric of the community.”

A second resident, Margie Mullins, said she and her daughter own property next to the vacant lot in question and do not want a multi-family home going in there. “We would like to keep it single family,” she said.

Comments from board

Trustee Erick Beck was the first village board member to weigh in on the issue. He asked Cindy Slabaugh, representing the applicants, if they would build a single-family home on the other vacant lot or leave it empty.

“They would put in single family,” she replied. “Both lots exceed minimum requirements for duplex homes. Out of respect for the neighbors, they kept one single family. They thought a duplex would be a nice buffer to the R-3 to the west of it.”

After that Mayor Jerry Bolin said such communication was not appropriate at the village board level. He said it should have occurred at the planning and zoning commission meeting, adding, “Everybody knows that. But since it has happened I will recognize Trustee (Steve) Johnson, who had his hand up.”

Johnson wondered if the applicants could put three single-family homes on the two lots?

“That would be difficult, with the frontage,” Slabaugh answered.

Later, when the agenda item came up, there were more comments from village board members.

“Given what the residents are saying, I cann’t support this tonight,” Trustee Johnson said.

Trustee Robbin Snodgrass said she worked in that neighborhood in the past. “Homes on Wayne Drive are lovely; 80 percent are beautiful and well taken care of.” She said she could not support the rezoning, either.

Another trustee, James Kidd, said he walked the neighborhood and talked with residents, not finding anyone in support of the rezoning.

“In a democracy, I think it’s important to listen to the will of the people,” he said.

This property is in village board District 6, represented by Trustee Erick Beck, and he said he was torn on the question. Believing the proposed rezoning was a logical step, he said he would change his no vote from the PED meeting and vote in favor of the petitioner.

Ultimately the board voted 4-2 against the request, with support coming from Beck and Trustee Terri Bailey. Approval was opposed by Mayor Bolin and trustees Johnson, Kidd and Snodgrass. Trustee Aaron Wilson was absent.

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