Ida Public Library is a major property owner in the city, especially along West Hurlbut Avenue, some of whose houses are part of a local historic district.

It is requesting rezoning of a 9,000-square-foot, vacant parcel at 117 W. Hurlbut from SR-6, single-family residential, to I, institutional, to accommodate a future library project of some kind.

The Belvidere Planning and Zoning Commission was first to hear the request, at its July 12 meeting. Community Development Planner Gina DelRose provided the background on the subject property as well as other details.

She said the property previously was developed with the Youndt House, which had been granted local landmark status in 2004. It was purchased by the library in 2012, which in 2016 requested a certificate of appropriateness from the Belvidere Historic Preservation Commission for its demolition. Due to the deteriorating condition of the residence, the commission approved the request and the Youndt House was torn down.

Overall, the Ida Public Library owns 10 of the 11 parcels that comprise this block of West Hurlbut Avenue. The optical center remains under private ownership. Of those 10 parcels, Planner DelRose said seven are zoned institutional; two are zoned neighborhood business and now, the library board is requesting the residentially zoned parcel 10 to be rezoned institutional, to allow it to be used for library purposes.

She continued that land uses by right in the Institutional District are not-for-profit recreational facilities, such as gymnasiums, swimming pools, libraries and museums. Schools, colleges, churches, nonprofit clubs and other similar land uses also are permitted.

The property at 117 W. Hurlbut measures less than 1 acre in size, which is too small to house many of the permitted uses in this district, she added. But parcels of this size are not likely to be developed as a single-family development. They most likely would be developed in conjunction with other parcels. She said such is the scenario for the Ida Public Library. Institutional land uses are those that have traditionally been located in or near residential areas.

DelRose said city staff believes the proposed rezoning and use for the property in question is not more intense than other uses in the general area. This parcel is part of a larger development that has a significant history in Belvidere.

“The intent is not to construct a stand-alone building, which would be difficult due to the parcel’s size, but to develop in conjunction with the adjacent property,” she explained. “This will allow the library to continue to meet the community’s needs.”

While nothing specific has been proposed for this land, one possible use would be as a pavilion where community activities could be held.

She concluded by saying, “Prior to 2006, Institutional land uses were allowed in the residential districts. Now that there is a separate zoning district even though they are commonly located in residential districts, there is a need for rezoning of such parcels to Institutional.”

That said, city staff recommended approval of the library’s request of the 117 W. Hurlbut Ave. property from SR-6, single-family residential to I, Institutional District.

It was stated earlier that notices about that commission meeting had been mailed out to property owners within 250 feet of the West Hurlbut parcel. One attended the July 12 to address the request.

Some questions

Commission Chairman Jay Alms first opened the floor to commissioners.

Commissioner Carl Grewuch asked for a clarification of the maps that had been presented by staff.

DelRose replied that they showed the current zoning of the neighborhood and also the comprehensive plan for the neighborhood.

Commissioner Paul Engelman asked if the rezoning had been initiated by the library or by the city.

A little bit of both, the planner answered.

She began, “It was desired by the library to ‘clean house’ and make sure the parcels (it owned) were all zoned within the same district. There also was a desire by the Belvidere Park District to request such rezonings, so that the zoning of the entities it owns are the same.”

Alms then asked for comments from the audience.

Neighborhood resident Tim Trueblood asked if the library was planning to build a pavilion on the property in question.

DelRose said a pavilion was one of the projects under discussion. She added that such a project would need to have building permits and meet zoning requirements.

Trueblood then asked if there would be a requirement in the zoning code for lighting.

“Parking lots require lighting, but pavilions do not,” DelRose replied. “If the library chooses to have security lighting present, they would need to meet the zoning requirements for lighting, which would be no greater than 0.5 foot candles at the property line.”

The public library is located at 320 N. State St. and Trueblood said its parking lot is completely dark at night, and that there had been some local concerns about that. The planner suggested he talk with Mindy Long, executive director of the library, about the concerns regarding lighting.

Ida Public Library representative Dawn Brooks was sworn in next and she pointed out a pavilion was a possibility for the property, and that the library wished to hold outdoor activities. A grant has been applied for, but she said the requested rezoning would allow the parcel to be ready for future projects.

In response to that, Gnewuch asked if the parcel might become a gathering place in a negative way.

Brooks responded that the library executive director wanted to provide security lighting and cameras, to forestall such a possibility.

There being no further discussion, the commission recommended approval of Case 2022-16 in a 6-0 vote. DelRose noted the request would go to the city council on July 18 for first reading, which happened that night, and to the Aug. 1 meeting for second reading and a final vote.

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