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The opinions expressed on the Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre are solely those of its author and are shared for the purpose of encouraging dialogue about life and issues in DeKalb County, Illinois.

Monday September 11, 2006


Should zoning laws be determined by administrative staff or elected leaders?: (click to read)

DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Director Paul Miller, responds to concerns expressed in this forum: (click to read)

If you mean what you say,
say what you mean

Comments: 20  (click to view)                                                       Addendums: 1

Paul R. Miller, Planning and Zoning Director for the DeKalb County Board, conducted the last of three “open house” informational meetings to explain the proposed changes to the DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance at the Sycamore Center on Thursday, December 2nd. Open houses were held on Tuesday (Nov. 30) in Waterman and on Wednesday in Genoa. The council chambers of the Sycamore Center was filled to capacity.

The topic of discussion was Article 8 of eleven articles contained in the proposed revised DeKalb County Zoning Ordinances. This section refers to non-conforming property and their uses. The goal is to rezone all property not within an incorporated city, town or village as A-1 Agriculture (farm land) which would result in all such land being legally considered as non-conforming.

Mr. Miller explained that the intent of these changes was to "prevent deep-pocketed developers" from forcing the County, through law suits, to allowing them to build subdivisions and malls, etc. in the rural areas of the county not serviced by the municipalities. According to his stated reasoning, if the County was to rezone all rural land as A-1 Agriculture then the developers would not stand a chance in court.

Under the proposed changes all existing properties in those unincorporated areas that were previously zoned residential, commercial, industrial, church, etc, would become non-conforming but existing owners of those properties would be protected by "grandfather" clauses contained in Article 8 that would assign Special Use Permits for these properties. The entire unincorporated communities of Fairdale, Esmond and Clare would be non-conforming.

But in section 8.01 Scope of Provisions, the following statement of intent is made:

It is the intent of this Article to permit pre-existing, lawful nonconforming uses and buildings to continue only until they are discontinued, removed or made to conform through rezoning or Special Use Permit, except as otherwise permitted herein, and not to encourage their survival or allow their renewal once they have been discontinued or removed. It is further the intent of this Article that nonconformities shall not be enlarged upon, expanded or extended, nor be used as grounds for adding other structures or uses prohibited elsewhere in the same zoning district, except as otherwise specifically permitted herein.

Miller assured the audience that present and future County Board members would not interpret the above statement to mean what it says but would instead interpret the intent as to mean what he said about those deep pocketed developers.

Sections 8.02 and 8. 03 appear to protect existing property owners:

8.02: Any nonconforming building, structure or use which existed lawfully at the time of the adoption of this Ordinance and which remains nonconforming, and any such building, structure or use which shall become nonconforming upon the adoption of this Ordinance or of any subsequent amendment thereto, may be continued subject to the regulations of this Article.

Section 8.03: Buildings, structures, lots and uses of land that are rendered nonconforming as a consequence of the adoption of this Ordinance and the elimination of the zoning district in which such building, structure, lots and uses were located as of December 31, 2004, according to the records of the County, shall be subject to the bulk regulations and performance standards of the previous zoning district, as set forth in Section 8.13 below. Such buildings, structures, lots and uses shall be considered legal, nonconforming and the uses thereof and buildings and structures thereon may be maintained, repaired, replaced, expanded and improved in a manner consistent with the standards in Section 8.13 and without regard to the other provisions of this Article. All other nonconforming uses, buildings and lots shall be subject to the regulations of Sections 8.04 through 8.12...

Miller steadfastly believes he has covered all the bases related to grandfathering the rights of existing property owners. If their home burns down they can replace it. They can sell their land, for the exact same use as recorded by the County as of December 31, 2004, and those uses can be transferred to the buyer.

The bases are not covered.

Examples: What if the owner of a now commercially zoned parcel that is used as an automobile repair shop needed to sell his/her property but the only buyer was one who wanted to use it for an antique shop?

How does having property designated as non-conforming impact the ability to obtain financing? Will mortgage lenders be as willing to loan money to the buyers of a property currently zoned residential after it has been declared non-conforming. Will such designation result in the existing property owner having to pay higher interest rates to make repairs or improvements?

If an existing property owner felt short changed in their ability to use or sell their land as what they believe is its highest and best use, will they have more or less of a chance in court as those "deep pocketed developers?"

Miller displayed contempt for some of the many questions he received from the audience. It was obvious he was annoyed to learn that there were concerns with these changes and suggestions for changes.

After all, he and staff and committee have worked six months on these proposed changes. Six months. For changes that will impact the residents of DeKalb County for decades to come.

Insiders say that these proposed changes are a lock to gain approval of the DeKalb County Board. They point to the fast track procedure employed by Paul Miller and staff as proof.

From the DeKalb County Government website:

The required public hearing will be held by the Zoning Hearing Officer on Thursday, December 16, 2004, at 1:00 p.m. in the DeKalb County Legislative Center, “Gathertorium,” 2000 N. Main Street, Sycamore, IL 60178.  All interested persons are encouraged to attend and be heard, as this will be the only opportunity for public input on this zoning application. 

It is planned for this proposal to be approved so that it takes effect January 1, 2005.

A member of the audience asked Miller if the hearing could not be held at a more convenient time. Miller retorted that, "when you have to appear in court, you show up. If this is important to you, you will show up."

If for any reason you are not able to take off from work to attend this hearing, at which very few County Board members will be in attendance, you may want to contact your district's County Board member, or all of them, and let them know your concerns.

If you are a property owner of land outside of the incorporated areas of DeKalb County, you should make every attempt to make sure that the current use of your land is what is recorded in the county records.

The DeKalb County Board would be wise, and of service to their constituents, if they put the brakes on this one. At least until all the bugs are worked out.

All Eleven Chapters of proposed changes  
Article 8 Non-conforming uses


Newly Elected Board Members


(815) 895-7507

JEFF WHELAN District 9
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Marlene D. Allen 
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Sally DeFauw
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Eileen Dubin
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Stephen M. Faivre
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Vince R. Faivre
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Julia L. Fauci
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John Gudmunson 
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Eric J. Johnson
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Patricia LaVigne
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Sue Leifheit
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Howard J. Lyle
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James R. MacMurdo
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Jeffery Metzger
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Richard Osborne
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Robert Rosemier
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Dennis Sands
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Roger Steimel
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Ruth Anne Tobias
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Franklin D. Van Buer


Patricia S. Vary


Joseph M. Wiegand
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John A. Wilson
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Reader Comments:

EDITOR'S NOTE: Paul Miller responded to many of the questions and concerns expressed here (click to read)

Date: Saturday December 04, 2004
Zipcode: 60520

The real purpose of this seems very vague. All I can assume from the proposal made is a restriction of any further growth and future tax base for the county. So therefore, we the property owners will bear the future burden. It seems someone is racing ahead into an uncertain future without any real facts or consideration of the consequence of such a proposal. Who's approval is the board looking for? Apparently not the property owners.

Date: Saturday December 04, 2004
Zipcode: 60550

From what I've read it looks like the highest and best use for all unincorporated areas is now and forever decided as ag land. So I guess if something happens and ag land values bottom out a few of us farmers will be stuck. Looking at your district map it looks like maybe the cities will decide this. There certainly aren't enough of us farmers to make any difference.

Date: Saturday December 04, 2004
Zipcode: 60

Here's a four letter word just for you. CARE!!! Go CARE!!! You and all your greedy developers can't hire your greedy lawyers and sue us to build your precious subdivisions when this passes. Cry all you want but get used to it. Paul Miller said it right because now you can't sue. If you don't like it, here is another four letter word for you, MOVE, and take all your builder buddies with you! That way we will have more farm land to enjoy as open spaces and less of those big rich homes! Your just mad because you didn't get your way at the meeting. Go CARE!!!

editor's response: ummmm, where to begin... 1) my concern is for the county moving ahead with this before the farmers and those who this would create consequences for have the chance to fully comprehend those consequences. 2) I am opposed to residential subdivisions being built in the unincorporated areas, and so are most of my "builder buddies." But I do think that if a farmer's son or daughter wants to build a new home on their family's farm they ought to be able to. and 3) Just so you know this... farm land is private property. It is not open space. We do have wonderful local and state parks and forest preserves to enjoy for that purpose. Stay out of the corn fields. There's a chance you might cross pollinate.

Date: Sunday December 05, 2004
Zipcode: 60

Has anyone took the time to notice that we have a record surplus of corn? That South America is taking a big share of our international market? So what does forcing land use of 80% of our land be for farming do? Force production so we can pay our tax bills and create surplus so we can't get good prices. This is ridiculous!

Date: Sunday December 05, 2004
Zipcode: 60178

Since this is a lengthy item, eleven sections with multiple pages, I have not finished reading all the material. This said, I have already noticed that this is better termed an attack on the farmers and farms. These laws would make farms worthless. No one in their right mind would buy one to farm.

If something happened like an illness, death, accident, that prevented them from getting the crop in the ground or harvested, the bank and the county would still want their money. The farm would have to be sold, but who would want it?

Why can't we get a state or federal law passed that would make it impossible for anyone to bring law suits to force the community to issue building permits? There needs to be an end to suing for everything that bothers or inconveniences an individual. Attacking the value of farms is not the answer.

editor's response: Mr. Miller and a few of the board members who have communicated with me about this maintain that their goal and intent is to prevent development in the unincorporated areas. Mr. Miller told us that he receives telephone calls from developers interested in doing just that on a regular basis. He tells them that such an attempt would very likely not be approved. According to a board member present at the Open House there has not been an application for such a development in eight years.

Keep in mind that the developer must sell their lots in order to pay their loans off and make money. Suing your customers before they become your customers goes against good business principles. Taking away the right to sue for one means taking it away for all.

A much simpler method, if the goal really is to prevent developers from developing unincorporated areas, is just what Mr. Miller is doing now. Tell them no. It costs tens of thousands of dollars just to start the process of getting subdivision approval and up to hundreds of thousands of dollars through the completion of the approval process. The developers will not invest that money if there is a probable chance they will lose it. They're investors not gamblers.

Date: Sunday December 05, 2004
Zipcode: 60115

I sincerely hope that the people of DeKalb County appreciate your time consuming effort and service in this extremely important matter that will effect their property sometime in the future. A terrific job of reporting!!! Thanks on behalf of all of us.

Date: Sunday December 05, 2004
Zipcode: 601

I find your personal attack of one who criticizes you rather sophomoric and takes away from an otherwise good effort to inform.

Date: Sunday December 05, 2004
Zipcode: 60178

As I am in the business I will offer my opinion on your concerns regarding lending and property legally classified as non-conforming. In residential lending, as long as the property is legal non-conforming, there shouldn't be much of a problem.

Creditworthiness is the key here. If the mortgage is sold to the secondary market and the buyer has other barriers to overcome then having such classification could be more of a barrier. Local lenders know more about the local zoning classifications.

Generally speaking, it is easier to obtain a loan for residential purposes than it is for commercial. Such a classification could be more of a problem here but again there are other factors.

I think you should ask those in the insurance industry how non-conforming classification affects insurance rates.

Date: Monday December 06, 2004
Zipcode: 60115

I just thought that people reading this might want to know that the OFFICIAL DeKalb County web page is www.dekalbcounty.org. You have no business doing this web page and you're spewing out garbage and lies. Get a life! Do something positive and end this cheap imitation.

Date: Monday December 06, 2004
Zipcode: 60178

If memory serves me right the attempt to build a subdivision in rural DeKalb County eight years ago was made by a local developer that owned land on Plank Road. The county turned him down and he sued. He also lost. So it is wrong to assume that the developers will automatically get their way in court. That property might be annexed into Sycamore by now.

Date: Monday December 06, 2004
Zipcode: 60

Thank you for telling people that farm land is not open space. There are certain groups out there that are misleading the public into thinking that it is. Meanwhile we get college kids and city slickers destroying our crops, harassing our livestock and just being jerks. As for this deal the county is up to, why don't they just pass an ordinance that says DeKalb County does not approve subdivisions in the middle of our cornfields. It don't take a rocket scientist to figure that out but it sure takes one to read all the mumbo jumbo that's in this new zoning ordinance. Keep up the good work!

Date: Monday December 06, 2004
Zipcode: 60
My concern is also about financing. All of the properties in the county will be Non Conforming if they are less than 40 acres. We must remember that the people that have the final word on loans are the underwriters. These people do not know the property and could care less, they simply determine if the loan requested is secure. As Non Conforming this may mean more down payment, a greater rate of interest or perhaps additional fees. I would hope that this and the other concerns would be addressed before we make such an important move. Perhaps this would be best determined by a county wide referendum.

editor's response: A county wide referendum was suggested at the Open House in Sycamore. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Date: Monday December 06, 2004
Zipcode: 60
First of all I thank you for taking the time and making the effort to help all of us seek to know the meaning of the proposed ordinance changes. I am listening to every word and every opinion in an effort to make up my mind just how this will effect me personally and the other fellow property owners of DeKalb County. I freely admit that I feel sadly under-educated when it comes to planning and zoning, no matter how much I read or how many meetings I attend.

I did attend the public information meeting in Sycamore and I also visited the Planning and Zoning office this afternoon. Both Paul Miller and Marcellus Anderson spent time with me to explain the reason for the changes... and the effect that it will and will not have on specific properties. I appreciate the time they spent explaining and accept the explanations they gave. As I understand it, the underlying reason is to further detour a judge from forcing a zoning change as a result of an application from a potential residential developer in an area of the county that is now zoned agriculture. {they did tell me that we had not had an application in 8 years}. They were very willing to answer all my questions and take all the time necessary to satisfy my concerns and I truly appreciate that.

At this point my biggest concern is WHY THE HURRY? If we haven't had a new application in 8 years, would it not be the prudent thing to do, to pass some sort of temporary halt to any changes or any applications for a few weeks in order to give the public a chance to have a better look at this proposal? For one, I would like to hear from the Farm Bureau. If we are indeed trying to preserve the farm land then lets hear what the farmers have to say. I am sure if we were considering changes to a specific street in town we would listen to what the neighborhood had to say. All of the meetings seem to be filled with perception and speculation. I hope that we will take a step back and look for facts.

We have in this community some of the very finest minds... on both sides of all issues... let us ask for the facts and their guidance... then carefully way the results before voting. Please.

Date: Monday December 06, 2004
Zipcode: 60

You have to deal with the anti-growth people. We have one of those groups here in Waterman. They're big on imposing their beliefs on to everyone else. This whole thing sounds like they're up to it again. Maybe they should become farmers or at least buy the farmland so they can protect it as they see fit. They shouldn't be able to tell farmers what to do with their own land.

editor's response: Mr. Miller says that this is not an anti-growth measure. He says the intent is to prevent developers from building subdivisions in the unincorporated areas.

Date: Monday December 06, 2004
Zipcode: 60115

So what's your take on this? Will it pass?

editor's response: I'm not an oddsmaker. :-) I hope some changes are made to address the concerns expressed here and verbally at the Open House(s). It would be great if the County responded to public concerns.

Date: Tuesday December 07, 2004
Zipcode: 60178

I think this issue will take a back seat until the public hearing anyway. At last nights county board meeting all of the Republicans walked out of the meeting. A couple of their members didn't show up and the Democrats tried to take advantage of it. Things are going to be heated for awhile.

Date: Tuesday December 07, 2004
Zipcode: 601

For the life of me, I can't figure out what you people who are complaining are complaining about. Have you tried talking to a board member? I did. Whatever your property is today is GRANDFATHERED. That means its protected. Period. You have nothing to worry about. You are all a bunch of whining conspiracy theorists. I guess the next thing I'll read is that the big corporate farmers are behind this because they're trying to grab land at cheap prices. Get a clue, people! You should at least try to talk to a board member.

editor's response: I'm going to try real hard not to be sophomoric again but I ain't very good at it.  The concerns expressed here are valid and take the so-called grandfathering into consideration. Even with this protection there appears to be some risk that these changes will cost property owners more money or perhaps even a loss in value. County board members are aware of this page and I email them copies of these responses, periodically. There's a one-liner, something about the word ASSUME, that is appropriate here, but again, that would be sophomoric of me.

Date: Tuesday December 07, 2004
Zipcode: 60178

This won't do anything to keep Cortland from trying to be the next poor man's version of Naperville. Growth belongs in the communities that can handle it.

Date: Thursday December 09, 2004
Zip Code: 60115

Years back, the government intruded with regulation upon fee upon regulation upon fee and the small independent manufacturers were replaced by huge corporations. The small businesses said nothing because it didn't mean anything to them personally. Soon the government came after the small independent businesses, offering huge tax breaks to the big box stores and soon the downtowns were empty while the shopping centers on the edge of town had full parking lots. The big corporate retailers replaced the small shops while the builders said nothing, because it didn't impact them.  So the government came after the small independent builders and now only the big corporate production builders are able to keep up. But the small independent farmers said nothing because it didn't impact them. So now the government is telling the small independent farmers, "we're going to protect you" by preserving your land so it can only be used for farming. Some have called it a conspiracy theory, but just watch with time... DeKalb County will be the richest farm soil in the nation, owned by the richest corporations in the world. Ain't it funny how an old broken bottle, looks just like a diamond ring?


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