In a surprising reversal of an earlier decision, the Des Plaines City Council on Monday night denied an extension for a temporary conditional use permit that would have allowed the Fountain Blue banquet facility to continue operating its outdoor tent for 18 months.
That means the 6,000-square-foot tent, which sits just west of the 120,000-square-foot Fountain Blue banquet hall at 2300 Mannheim Road, must cease operating immediately, officials said.
According to city officials, Fountain Blue owner Tom Diamond has spent $50,000 on sound mitigation for the tent over the last two years. Neither Diamond nor his attorney was present at Monday night's meeting, and they could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Earlier this month, the council gave preliminary approval to Diamond's permit request allowing the tent to remain, if he met 20 conditions -- including erecting a 12-foot sound retention wall on two sides -- to eliminate noise affecting area residents.
But the ordinance failed to pass on second reading Monday by a 5-3 vote after aldermen questioned the truth of Diamond's story of how the tent came to be erected in the first place.
Aldermen directed the city attorney to prepare a resolution detailing the reasons for denial, which will be approved by the council at a later meeting.
It was a triumph for the residents of roughly 18 single-family homes and a number of townhouses nearby who have repeatedly complained to the city about noise from weddings, parties and other events held under the tent. Area residents lodged 50 complaints with police, which resulted in five citations against Fountain Blue for disturbing the peace, four of which carried fines.
"It has been a two-year struggle," said Bill Dillon, a resident of Pine Street whose property sits immediately behind the banquet facility.
Dillon said Fountain Blue was issued a citation Sept. 21, 2010, for constructing the tent without a permit or inspection. Fountain Blue subsequently was granted a temporary conditional use permit in January 2011, which expired earlier this year.
Several aldermen recently began questioning who at city hall gave Diamond the go-ahead in the first place after residents raised the issue that the tent had been put up without a permit in 2010.
Diamond said that then-Community and Economic Development Director Mike Conlan and Mike Spiel, the city's former director of building and code enforcement, had granted him permission to put up the tent.
Yet city officials have been unable to find any documentation to support Diamond's claim, 4th Ward Alderman Dick Sayad said Monday.
"I think we all wanna know what happened here," Sayad said.
"I was for this, but this thing stinks. I'm not going to vote for this."
Sayad admonished the city staff for not getting Diamond to appear before the council to answer questions.
Mayor Matt Bogusz defended his staff and said it was Diamond's responsibility to show up at the meeting, which was publicized, and added that the city cannot compel him to appear.
Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman said he contacted Conlan, now living in Duluth, Minn., and Spiel to verify Diamond's version of the facts and they said they found out about the tent after construction had begun.
"I feel I was misled," said Brookman, adding that Conlan told him he warned Diamond that if he moved forward with constructing the tent, it would be at his own risk.
Residents also have pointed out that Diamond and his Kildeer neighbors defeated an outdoor tent proposal by Concorde Banquets in 2007 by citing the negative impact the noise would have on their quality of life and property values.
"Aldermen have given him the benefit of the doubt," Dillon said during the meeting.
Once the council voted, he said, "the truth came out tonight in the city council meeting, and the aldermen began to realize they were being deceived by Tom Diamond and Fountain Blue."