The opinions expressed on the Rants and Raves of Mac McIntyre (that's me in the picture) are solely those of its author and are shared for the purpose of encouraging dialogue about life and issues in DeKalb County, Illinois. I welcome your comments, public or private, and encourage your participation in community affairs.

Sunday February 05, 2006

Proposed Changes to the DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance

editor's note: It's with pleasure that I present the following response from Paul Miller regarding the concerns expressed in this forum. Several readers contributed thoughtful concerns they had about the proposed changes in the DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance.

I encourage you to continue to express your thoughts regarding the proposed changes in any forum available, public or private. A representative government performs best when it receives input from the people it represents.

comments: 6

December 8, 2004

Mr. McIntyre;

Thank you for forwarding some of the correspondence you have received regarding the proposed changes to the DeKalb County Zoning Ordinance. For your use, I offer the following feedback to some of the questions raised:

1. The subdivision that was proposed in 1996 along Plank Road was denied by the County, and the County prevailed in court when the developer sued. It cost thousands of dollars. The changes being proposed for the Zoning Ordinance will not stop the County from being sued, nor make it any cheaper to defend its decisions. But County staff believes it will increase the County's chances of prevailing in court, and thereby defending the growth policies that were expressed by hundreds of people, and endorsed by the County and 13 municipalities, when the current Comprehensive Plan was adopted.

2. The County cannot simply pass an ordinance that says it will not approve new subdivisions. State zoning law allows that any person may petition for a change to any of the existing zoning districts in the Zoning Ordinance. As long as the County has straight residential, business and manufacturing zones that apply to existing houses and businesses, developers can request, and reasonably expect to be granted, the same zoning district for new uses. One real concern is that if the County continues to deny new applications for residential zoning, a developer could argue that the County is discriminating against new residents, an argument that may be compelling to some judges. By "grandfathering" the existing houses and businesses, the County makes it clear that those properties and uses are okay and may remain, but more of the same is not accommodated by the Zoning Ordinance.

3. Staff has heard the concern that underwriters and mortgage companies may charge a higher rate of interest or increased fees if a property is legal, nonconforming (grandfathered). Staff notes that there are hundreds of properties throughout DeKalb County that are now, and have for many years been, legal, nonconforming. Appraisers, realtors and attorneys involved in pending sales visit the Planning, Zoning and Building Department every day to check zoning, and in no case has it been pointed out that the legal, nonconforming status of a property has compelled a higher interest rate or greater fees. In fact, on average, two dozen farm houses are divided from the farm fields every year, each one being made legal, nonconforming, and never has the seller or buyer indicated that the zoning status has cost them money. Staff will, however, attempt to get more information from mortgage brokers to see if this is a legitimate concern and, if so, whether or not the possible costs are significant.

4. Just to clarify, it is not that there has been no applications for new subdivisions in eight years; no new subdivision has been approved by the County Board in eight years. The County has received applications, and denied each of them. One is the matter of a pending law suit. Every month staff fields calls from developers, some of whom have options on large farms and are proposing hundreds of new houses. Because of the existing policies, staff has been able to direct most of these toward the cities, where the Comprehensive Plan says growth should occur. There is no guarantee staff will continue to be successful in doing this. Staff believes the proposed rezoning of all properties to the A-1 District will help continue to implement this approach toward growth.

There is no particular hurry to the proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance. The Planning and Regulations Committee of the County Board and staff has been working on possible changes for over six months. Each of the meetings have been open to the public, and the agendas have been published. The County is listening very carefully to what property owners, the public, and other interested persons have to say about these proposed changes. The Open House meetings conducted in Waterman, Genoa and Sycamore were intended for two-way conversation, and throughout the process, the draft regulations have been revised when legitimate issues have been pointed out. The draft regulations have also been reviewed by the State's Attorney's office, and by other planning and zoning experts. The December 16 public hearing will be followed by the issue going again before the Planning and Regulations Committee, and then before the full County Board. All interested persons are encouraged to attend the public hearing (December 16, 1:00 p.m., in the DeKalb County Legislative Center at 200 N. Main Street, Sycamore) and be heard.

5. You were correct with your response to the individual who suggested that the proposed change to the Zoning Ordinance is driven by the "anti-growth" people. DeKalb County is not anti-growth and never has been. It is in favor of controlled growth. That is why it endorses the growth plans of each of the communities, including the Village of Waterman, by lifting those individual city growth plans and inserting them into the County plan. The County believes the cities have the right to grow as they see fit, whether that means a lot of growth or none at all.

Again, thanks for taking the time to forward some of the comments regarding this possible change to me. I encourage you to contact me with any additional questions or concerns. Although there are always some who will assume that the County is up to something sneaky, the fact is that this process is and has been very open, and participation by the public is strongly encouraged.


Paul R. Miller
DeKalb County Planning Director


Zip Code: 60115
<The Open House meetings conducted in Waterman, Genoa and Sycamore were intended for two-way conversation, and throughout the process, the draft regulations have been revised when legitimate issues have been pointed out. >

I was at one of those meetings. Mr. Miller's attitude seemed to be one more of disgust with residents' concerns than of two-way conversation. Can he tell us specifically what changes were made to the Ordinance as a result of issues pointed out at those meetings?

editor's response: To defend not only county staff but municipal staff in DeKalb, Sycamore, Genoa and Waterman who have worked on comprehensive plans... They put an inordinate amount of time into the plan and exert a lot of effort in trying to get the public to pay attention to what is going on and to offer their input. But it seems that we don't really pay close attention until we figure out how it might impact us. These proposed changes are an effort to complete the county's comprehensive planning and future land use. I support the county's future land use plan, that incorporates each of the municipality's comprehensive plans. I do not support the unilateral rezoning of all unincorporated areas to A-1 and that is based on the input I am receiving from readers, like you.

Zip Code: 60552
I'm glad to hear that staff is going to ask experts for input before going ahead with this. Nonconforming can affect mortgage rates, it can affect insurance rates and it can affect the ability to sell.

Paul Miller response: In response to concerns raised at the Genoa open house meeting, staff interviewed representatives of lending institutions (mortgage companies and banks), realtors, appraisers, a representative from a title company, and a mortgage broker, in order to get a better handle on the concern that rezoning property to the A-1 District, which would make properties "legal, nonconforming," might have negative impacts on the cost of selling or refinancing a house. The conclusion is that as long as the County rules allow that the house may be rebuilt if it burns down, the vast majority of underwriters will have no problem with the "legal, nonconforming" status of those properties. Both the lenders and the appraisers agreed that it would be unlikely that a "legal, nonconforming" status of rezoned properties would result in higher fees, higher interest rates, or lower loan-to-value. Apparently, very few underwriters actually look at zoning; the majority simply want to know that the loan is protected should the house be damaged or destroyed.

Another follow-up to a concern from the open houses dealt with what property owners who have lots of two acres or more in size might need to do to allow horses on properties that had previously been zoned residential (which does not allow horses). Staff confirmed that the regulations allow that any lot of two acres or more in size may have farm animals, regardless of its prior zoning.

Zip Code: 60115
Whoa!!! The county is getting sued??? That's big news. Who is suing the county and why doesn't the public know about this? Which developer is suing the county? This should be public record. Why hasn't this news been in the newspapers?

Paul Miller response: The County is being sued for denying the application of Janice K. Nelson for a Planned Development-Residential project on a 30-acre tract of land located on the east side of Somonauk Road, south of I-88.

Zip Code: 60134
Since the County is obviously reading these comments will they be recorded as public input? I cannot make the public hearing on the 16th. If I had court on that date I would ask for a continuance.

Zip Code: 60115
Mr. Miller said, "throughout the process, the draft regulations have been revised when legitimate issues have been pointed out." The link to the PDF version of article 8 of these changes has been on the county website throughout the three Open Houses. Each of these Open Houses were well attended and many legitimate concerns were expressed. Article 8 has not changed. Could he specifically point to a change?

Zip Code: 60115
Janice Nelson is not a deep pocketed developer. She owns the land in question. It can't be used as farm land.

Post Your Comments:
if you would like to respond directly to Mr. Miller, his email address is , or his telephone number is (815) 895-7188

Your Zip Code *required


Your Email
(required only if you want a response)


Your Comment Regarding Education Finance Reform:






Trademark Real Estate knows DeKalb County! Offices located in both Genoa & Waterman.
Search homes now!
Park88 in DeKalb Illinois is a state of the art business park with room and infrastructure in place for logistics and warehousing facilities. Click here now.
Home Theater Concepts, Inc. custom installs audio and video incl. whole house light, intercom & sound systems.
See More!
The Gardens of RiverMist offers luxurious town homes in DeKalb built by Ivan Krpan. Homes on sale now!
American Title brings homeownership to true closure. Offering home title insurance services. Click here.
John L. Castle Builders, LLC wants you to "Make your home a Castle" Currently building in Sycamore & DeKalb. View for yourself.
Elm Street Realtors of Sycamore offers professional, informed and comprehensive real estate services. For More Information
Fantastic new residential Kirkland neighborhood adjacent to new state park. Rood Construction, Hickory Ridge Subdivision.
The Bridges of RiverMist is an exquisite community of island neighborhoods in DeKalb. Neighborhood Three Lots Now On Sale!
Resource Bank takes the hassles out of getting a mortgage with competitive rates and incomparable service! Click here!
South Pointe Conference Centre has rooms, food and bar service 50 to 925 guests. More info?
Tom Taylor Construction offers expertise in new and remodeling of both residential and commercial construction. View his portfolio!
Coventry Townhomes of North Field Farms in Cortland.
Brian Grainger Construction - Solid Construction, Solid Future. Click here for more info.
South Pointe Greens has DeKalb's newest Golf Course and Executive Chip and Putt Course as well as beautiful home sites. Take a look!
D. Dorrance & Son Custom Homes builds homes that are 'Finished to Distinction'. An impressive portfolio awaits if you Click here for more info.