Home rule discussion could be on the horizon in DuPage County
A push to stop adult businesses from operating in unincorporated areas of DuPage could lead to a discussion of whether the county should pursue home-rule powers.
A county board member raised the home rule topic Tuesday after a judge prevented the county from temporarily shutting down an "adult" photography studio near Wheaton.
The state's attorney's office filed a lawsuit last month against Hot Shots Photography Studio alleging violations of county zoning ordinances and state statutes regarding the location of adult entertainment facilities and adult business uses. The business is next to a residentially zoned property and within 1,000 feet of a school, an active recreation facility and a church, each of which violates DuPage's zoning ordinance, according to the lawsuit.
On Monday, the DuPage judge in the case rejected prosecutors' request for a temporary restraining order, which would have closed the business until the litigation is resolved.
Frustrated that Hot Shots will remain open, county board member Jim Zay suggested DuPage declare itself home rule and immediately shutter the business.
"Let the courts decide if we have home-rule authority or not," said Zay, a Carol Stream Republican.
Taking the issue to court and having a judge decide is one way DuPage could get home-rule powers. Other methods include asking voters to approve a countywide ballot request or asking state lawmakers to approve legislation making DuPage home rule.
If DuPage had home-rule power, Zay said it would have the ability to ban adult businesses. Right now, it can restrict only where they are located.
"We don't have the teeth in our zoning that we need," Zay said.
But while home-rule status would give DuPage more regulatory powers, it also would substantially increase the county's taxing authority -- a reason the issue has been a political hot potato.
Voters in the past have stripped such power away from some DuPage communities and ousted a former county board chairman -- Jack Knuepfer -- after he proposed it.
County board Chairman Dan Cronin said he's "well aware" that home rule is a controversial subject. Still, he said it's worthy of discussion.
"It's time we talk about it," he said, adding that what's happening with adult businesses in DuPage "is the perfect illustration of why we need it."
Cronin said there have been other instances where DuPage could have asserted itself in a more meaningful way if it had home-rule powers. A specific example was when officials were investigating the Sterigenics company over emissions of a cancer-causing gas.
Still, Cronin said it would be up to the 18-member county board to decide if it wants DuPage to seek home-rule power.
At least one board member says he's opposed.
"The problem with home rule is that future boards would have a lot of taxing authority," said Jim Healy, a Naperville Republican. He said Cook County is the only county in the state with home-rule status.
Instead of pursuing home rule to deal with adult businesses, Healy said the county should lobby Springfield to change state law.
But board member Sam Tornatore said he supports the idea of home rule.
"The long-standing argument against it is that you don't want to give too much power to the politicians because then they'll tax you," the Roselle Republican said. "But that hasn't been our history up until now when we've had the opportunity to do it."