Just months after a former majority on Winfield's village board made a controversial decision to rezone a stretch of Roosevelt Road, trustees who now control the board have hit the reset button.
Village President Erik Spande and his three political allies -- trustees Jack Bajor, James McCurdy and Phillip Mustes -- Thursday night repealed a commercial zoning classification for more than a dozen properties along Roosevelt, Garys Mill and Wynwood roads. The 4-3 vote restored residential zoning to the parcels.
Spande said the repeal was necessary because the parcels were improperly rezoned on March 7 by the village board's former majority.
"If you're going to redevelop Roosevelt Road, this is not the way to do it," Spande said of the rezoning. "You need to follow due process ... and you need to make sure it's clear that you're protecting people's interests. What they did back in March was not right."
The three trustees on the losing end of Thursday's vote -- Tim Allen, Tony Reyes and James Hughes -- were part of the previous board that approved the zoning change as a way to encourage commercial development and create a larger tax revenue base for the cash-strapped village. They argued that repealing the decision would be a mistake.
"What's really going on here is a blatant disregard for finding a solution other than raising taxes on the residents of Winfield," Reyes said.
Two weeks ago, most of the board agreed to keep the B-1 zoning in place until after consultants working on an update to the village's comprehensive plan come up with three options for how Roosevelt could be developed.
"They (the consultants) will come back and say it needs to be commercial," Allen said. "It's just a question of how much commercial. They'll give us three options for how much commercial it ought to be."
However, two of the trustees who initially supported the plan to wait -- Bajor and McCurdy -- had a change of heart.
Bajor said he was hoping to get information to back up claims that a major retailer was interested in parcels along Roosevelt. But he said, "I certainly have not heard or seen anything of that nature."
Reyes accused the Bajor and McCurdy of "reneging" on a compromise.
"You said you were not going to try and reverse the B-1 zoning," Reyes said. "You said you were for development. Yet you hide behind some mask that says I'm doing the right thing by not allowing the things that I ran on (during the election) to happen."
Spande said one reason the rezoning had to be repealed now is because Winfield is being sued by homeowners who opposed to the zoning change.
"If the current lawsuit proceeds, it's going to take one to two years to resolve and cost the taxpayers $40,000 to $80,000 (in legal fees)," Spande said.
Meanwhile, he said, he believes the village will "probably lose" the lawsuit because there were "so many irregularities and legal problems" with the rezoning decision.
The previous board took action without first getting a recommendation from the plan commission. Trustees said that was done because plan commissioners repeatedly postponed their discussion on Roosevelt.
Because of how things played out, village officials have said the B-1 zoning classification was too broad. Another problem, they said, is that no "transitional zoning" existed between what could have been built and the houses that would have bordered it.
"In other words, it's just a horrible mess," Spande said.
While Thursday's vote is expected to make one lawsuit against the village go away, it might inspire another one. An attorney representing the property owners who wanted their land rezoned has threatened to take legal action if the repeal was approved.
"The fact is we need this (rezoning)," Reyes said to trustees who supported the repeal. "And you causing another lawsuit to try and stop what needs to be done is ridiculous."