Elmhurst panel could review proposed hoop house guidelines

  • About 40 people attended a meeting of Elmhurst City Council's development, planning and zoning committee to show their support for revisions to zoning codes to allow hoop houses.

      About 40 people attended a meeting of Elmhurst City Council's development, planning and zoning committee to show their support for revisions to zoning codes to allow hoop houses. Robert Sanchez | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/26/2018 6:05 PM

Members of a city council committee backed away from limiting the height of so-called hoop houses at 6 feet in Elmhurst after supporters argued the temporary structures used to grow plants should be taller.

Instead, a recommended height restriction of 8 feet will be included in the language for a proposed text amendment to the city's zoning ordinance regarding hoop houses and other systems designed to extend the growing season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now it will be up to the full council to decide next week whether it wants the zoning and planning commission to conduct a public hearing on the possible text amendment.

"It's just one step in the process," said Michael Honquest, chairman of the council's development, planning and zoning committee.

Elmhurst is addressing the issue of hoop houses more than a year after residents Nicole and Dan Virgil were forced to remove one from their backyard because the plastic-covered structure violated city code.

The Virgils and dozens of their supporters want the city to revise its rules to allow such structures.

Although a permanent greenhouse is an option for residents wanting to extend the growing season, officials said they also want to evaluate alternatives.

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Ultimately, the three aldermen on the committee -- Honquest, Noel Talluto and Mark Mulliner -- came up with a list of suggested requirements that includes limiting hoop houses to backyards, capping their size at 500 square feet, and prohibiting their use for storage.

The zoning and planning commission will be asked to examine whether fences should be required.

But the committee struggled to recommend a height limit.

Concerned about creating potential problems for neighbors, members two weeks ago agreed on a cap of 6 feet.

On Monday, though, about 40 people attended the committee meeting to support hoop houses and many said a 6-foot limit is unreasonable.

"The restrictions being proposed are not consistent with other structures that a resident can put up," Dan Virgil said.

Ben Silver, an attorney for the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, said good government calls for elected officials to set aside personal preferences and make decisions based on the needs and wants of the community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There's nothing in the record to support the idea that the community demands a 6-foot cap on hoop houses," he said.

Honquest said he believes there will be residents who argue that 8 feet is too tall, but Talluto said she thinks that height is "a reasonable compromise."

In addition to the height restriction, the committee is recommending that hoop houses be taken down during the summer.

Officials stress the committee's suggestions would simply be a starting point for the zoning and planning commission, which would make its own recommendations.

"Every issue that we've discussed will get discussed at the commission," Honquest said.

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