DeKalb County                

Planning/Zoning/Building Department

110 East Sycamore Street                  

 Sycamore, IL 60178                      

     (815) 895-7188                          

   Fax: (815) 895-1669                     





TO:                 Planning and Zoning Committee


FROM:           Paul R. Miller, AICP

DeKalb County Planning Director


DATE:            January 11, 2005


SUBJECT:     Zoning Ordinance Update Text Amendments,

Petition DC-03-24


In accordance with the direction of the Planning and Zoning Committee, the Planning, Zoning and Building Department staff filed a petition for Zoning Text Amendments.  The proposal is comprehensive in scope, and the litany of possible changes to the Ordinance run the gamut from revisions to definitions, to the elimination of all zoning districts other than A-1, Agricultural and the FP/C, Floodplain/Conservation Districts, to the titles of administrative officers.  The application was filed in accordance with the requirements of Section 10.03.C of the current DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance.


The required public hearing was conducted by Hearing Officer Ron Klein on December 16, 2004.  Staff presented the petition and summarized the changes.  Particular attention was given to the proposal to eliminate non-agricultural zoning districts, rezone those properties to the A-1 District, and Agrandfather@ those lots and uses.  Approximately 80 members of the public attended the hearing, and 17 persons spoke over a period of three hours.  Two spoke in favor of the changes, and 15 spoke in opposition to, or asked questions about, the proposal to rezone properties.


The Hearing Officer has filed his report and recommends approval of the Text Amendments, but qualifies that recommendation with concern that rezoning all non-agricultural properties to the A-1 District, rendering them Alegal, nonconforming,@ may cause hardships for those property owners when properties go to sale or refinancing (see report).



Alternative:  The majority of attention, discussion and concern has focused on the proposal to rezone all non-agricultural properties to the A-1 District, and Agrandfather@ those uses.  Some members of the public and representatives from professionals in the real estates and financing fields have raised the concern that a designation of Alegal, nonconforming@ could or would harm property owners.  The assertion is that financing companies would refuse to finance or refinance such properties, or require higher interest rates, or lower the loan-to-value, or charge higher fees, or that mortgages on these properties would not be able to be sold on the secondary market.  No data has been provided to back these assertions, but the concern has been raised by a number of individuals and organizations (realtors and mortgage brokers).  The Hearing Officer has indicated that, in his own experience, a Alegal, nonconforming@ status for a property could cause lenders, especially those outside of the DeKalb area, to demand extraordinary measures of buyers and sellers.


Anticipating that the Committee will want to respond to the concern over this possible change, staff has prepared an alternative.  The proposal is to re-write the non-agricultural zoning districts as AConservation@ districts.  The titles of each district would be changed to Aresidential conservation,@ Abusiness conservation,@ Amanufacturing conservation,@ etc., and the APurpose and Intent@ portion of the R-1, R-2, B-1 and M-1 zoning districts would be rewritten so that instead of being for the construction of residences and businesses, the districts would be for the preservation of existing lots, building and uses.  No other changes to the district regulations would be made.


Under this scenario, no existing lot, building or use would be rendered nonconforming.  However, the district regulations would specify that only those properties located in the Aconservation@ zones at the time the new Zoning Ordinance is adopted may be so zoned, and Aconservation@ zoning may not be applied to any other properties in the County.  In this way, the existing non-agricultural lots, buildings and uses could be preserved, but new non-agricultural uses would be possible only via the planned development regulations.  The overall purpose of the update to the Zoning Ordinance, that is, to help achieve the Unified Comprehensive Plan goal of discouraging new growth in unincorporated DeKalb County, would still be served, since Aby-right@ zoning regulations would be eliminated.  The pages containing the re-titled and re-drafted APurpose and Intent@ for each district are attached.


Also under this proposal, the properties zoned Aplanned development@ would remain as a separate zoning district.  Planned unit developments would not be included as Special Uses in the A-1 District, as laid out in the previous scenario, and the regulations now applicable to those properties would not change.  The revisions to the regulations for new Planned Developments that have previously been presented to the Committee are still recommended by staff.


A last, minor change that has come from some members of the public is the request that farm animals be allowed on any lot of two or more acres in size, regardless of the zoning district.  Such a change could be included in Article 5, the Supplementary District Regulations.



Staff will be prepared to elaborate on this alternative and answer questions from the Committee.  Staff has already solicited the input of Ron Cope, as an authority on zoning law in the State of Illinois, and of the State=s Attorney=s Office.  Both have indicated that the proposed Aconservation@ districts are legal under State law.  If the Committee chooses to endorse this alternative, staff recommends that the Zoning Ordinance Update application can be returned to the Hearing Officer for further consideration.  This would mean re-opening the public hearing.  Staff recommends that a notice could be published in the newspaper announcing the re-opened hearing, and could be sent to the same individuals and organizations that were informed of the Open House meetings held for the Zoning Ordinance Update in the beginning of December, 2004.


The Planning and Regulations Committee is requested to review the report and recommendation of the Hearing Officer and the alternative to rezoning non-agricultural properties.  The Committee may choose to forward an ordinance to the full County Board for action on the Zoning Text Amendments, with or without changes to what was presented at the public hearing, or may return the issue to the Hearing Officer for further consideration.


cc:        William Gorey, Chief Civil Assistant State=s Attorney



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