New Winfield board seeks to repeal Roosevelt rezoning

Updated 6/7/2013 1:02 PM
  • New village board members in Winfield are expected to repeal a former board's decision to rezone properties along Roosevelt Road.

    New village board members in Winfield are expected to repeal a former board's decision to rezone properties along Roosevelt Road. Daily Herald file photo

A new voting bloc on Winfield's village board is wasting little time before hitting the reset button on a controversial decision to rezone a stretch of Roosevelt Road.

Newly elected Village President Erik Spande and his three political allies -- trustees Jack Bajor, James McCurdy and Phillip Mustes -- on Thursday night directed village staff to draft an ordinance that would repeal a commercial classification for more than a dozen properties along Roosevelt, Garys Mill and Wynwood roads.

If the measure is formally approved later this month, it would undo a March 7 decision by the village board's former majority and restore residential zoning to the parcels.

"This (rezoning) was not done right," Bajor said. "It was not thought out. It was a couple of cavalier trustees going out, pulling packages together, bundling properties and not working through the process."

Former Trustee Jay Olson had been part of a voting bloc that sought the rezoning to encourage commercial development and create a larger tax revenue base for the cash-strapped village.

Then Olson lost his seat during the April 9 election.

Now his remaining allies on the board -- trustees Tim Allen, Tony Reyes and James Hughes -- are trying to argue the commercial zoning should remain in place until after the village updates its comprehensive plan. The process of revising the comprehensive plan has started and is expected to take about a year, officials said.

"You guys have the votes, and that's OK," Allen said during Thursday night's lengthy board discussion. "I know how this is done. When we had the votes, we did what we wanted to do. But I do believe that we are sticking a dagger in the heart of our ability to pay our bills. And I think that's a shame."

Before the election, Spande, Bajor, McCurdy and Mustes all said they wouldn't seek an immediate repeal of the commercial zoning.

On Thursday, Mustes said the rezoning needs to be repealed for several reasons, including the village's growing legal bills. Winfield is paying two law firms to defend it against a lawsuit brought by homeowners opposed to the rezoning.

"We've got one $9,000 bill," Mustes said. "I don't know how much more is coming, but the estimates run around $80,000 over two years. The village is bleeding out of both ears paying for two law firms."

Then there's a debate over whether the rezoning was done illegally.

The previous board took action without first getting a recommendation from the plan commission. Reyes said that was done because plan commissioners repeatedly postponed their discussion on Roosevelt.

"We tried as hard as we could to make something happen the right way," Reyes said. "However, the state of Illinois doesn't give the plan commission the power to hold a zoning matter hostage for political purposes."

Because of how things played out, Village Manager Curt Barrett said the zoning classification that was approved is too broad. "It does not have protections for the community about what kind of development goes in there," Barrett said.

Another problem with the measure, Barrett said, is that it doesn't have any "transitional zoning" between what could be built and the houses that would border it. There also were amendments made that weren't part of the original public hearing notice.

"Together, it makes the ordinance something of a mess," he said.

Rather than trying to fix the problems related to the rezoning, McCurdy said the board should repeal the decision. He supported his colleagues who say any discussion about what should happen along Roosevelt should be postponed until after the comprehensive plan is done.

"Let's start and do this thing right from the very beginning," McCurdy said. "We haven't done that."

Reyes accused the new majority on the board of having other motivations.

"You don't want to lose any trees," Reyes said. "You don't want to see another car going down Winfield Road."

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