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Village ponders moratorium on land use issues

Fontana looks at rewriting codes

June 09, 2010 | 08:44 AM
Fontana — When land use issues are discussed at Village Hall, it isn't unusual for crowds to gather to fight development and preserve the current character of the community.

In an effort to prevent unwanted changes, the village is planning a complete rewrite of its zoning and land use codes.

The current code was written more than 40 years ago. Over time it has been altered and changed to the point where it is no longer effective or coherent.

As the Village Board considers rewriting the code, some residents fear that bad projects may be rushed through under the current laws.

Recently, the village received a letter that was signed by "Concerned Citizens of Fontana," requesting that a moratorium — a temporary suspension of activity — be placed on all land use issues in the village while the code is being revised.

"We are making this formal request, as a moratorium is the only viable option available to allow our village representatives the necessary time to rewrite our zoning and land division ordinances, so they may be used to effectively and efficiently realize the vision of our community put forward in the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan," the letter stated.

Trustee Micki O'Connell expressed concerns that without a moratorium the village may receive requests for unwanted projects.

"When people know we are going to do something they will try to get it in under the gun. The more delay the more inappropriate building that goes on," she said.

Members of the audience applauded after she made her comments.

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The Village Board approved a motion to have the staff begin the process of placing a moratorium on rezone and platting proposals. After the motion was approved, members of the audience applauded and cheered.

Why Chapter 17 and 18?

The village is looking at updating Chapter 17 and 18 of its municipal code. Chapter 17 regulates all land division, subdivision and lot line issues and Chapter 18 covers zoning regulations.

"Chapters 17 and 18 openly contradicts each other," Thorpe said June 1.

These chapters are unique from the rest of the village ordinances because anytime they are revised a public hearing is required. The two chapters also are referenced frequently at Village Hall and for Plan Commission issues.

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In Fontana, public opposition to any development or change in land use is fairly common.

After all this is the same village where residents fought the removal of a tree on private land along the lakefront.

Sharon O'Brien, who helped pen the moratorium request to the village, is critical on how the village responds to development.

"We approved a boathouse and a few weeks later we amended the ordinance for boathouses," O'Brien said. "How long are we going to do things like that."

Recently, the Geneva Lake Conservancy protested the construction of a boathouse on N. LakeShore Drive. After that project was approved, the village quickly banned any additional boathouses along the shores of Geneva Lake.

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Moratorium questions

Thorpe said the main question with the moratorium is what type of development should be prohibited.

He also warned that the village needed to be careful on what is blocked because of the tax increment district.

"Adding limitations to development during what is perhaps the worse recession of our lifetime may not be so wise," Thorpe said.

Village Planner Mike Slavney warned unwanted projects may be proposed without a moratorium.

"When something is brought forward with existing rules as opposed to the old rules, it is never for the better," Slavney said.

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