City officials said Monday that a Zoning and Planning Commission meeting on building height that was canceled last month due to lack of notice to neighbors could have proceeded without interruption.
The Zoning and Planning Commission was set in May to discuss a zoning code text amendment that would allow 65-foot-tall buildings to be built in the central business district without setbacks from the street.
The city is obligated to mail notice to neighbors within 500 feet of the affected area for "map" amendment changes. A text amendment changes written provisions in zoning ordinances; a map amendment changes the zoning district for an area.
The Zoning and Planning Commission did not tell neighbors whether the discussion was over a text or map amendment. Two aldermen and local watchdog Citizen Advocacy Group said the discussion could have been a map amendment change, and the meeting was canceled due to ambiguity.
Still, city officials maintained Monday that the discussion was a text amendment issue, and the commission could have proceeded without mailing notice.
"We've never mailed notice to residents because of a text amendment," Zoning and Planning Administrator Than Werner said.
Postage costs are a main reason the city would want to avoid mailing notice. At 44 cents each, expenses for mailing notice to every resident and neighbor within 500 feet of the central business district would add up quickly.
"There's no other city in the state of Illinois (that mails notice for text amendments)," Werner said.
Werner added that mailing notice is a prime example of an aggravating "rule of the 1920s" the city must adhere to, along with posting legal notices in a local newspaper or paying a stenographer to record Zoning and Planning Commission hearings.
Development, Planning and Zoning Committee Chairman Steve Morley said the lack of notice was mostly due to a clerical error omitting "text" from the commission's agenda last month.
"We need to be very clear about throwing around 'open' and 'transparent,' " he said. "This is simply clarification."
But a local watchdog group thinks more than clarification is necessary when dealing with a potential ordinance change that could affect a whole neighborhood. Terry Pastika, executive director of Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center, believes an ordinance amendment granting 20-foot taller buildings in the City Centre without setbacks directly affects many more people than other zoning amendments.
"Changing a building height affects adjacent property owners more than a political sign," Pastika said.
The ordinance amendment directly affects the often-discussed , a venture that would redevelop a vacant medical office building into a 65-foot-tall structure with retail, office space and parking.
Currently, the city allows for buildings to be up to 90 feet high under conditional use in the business district, but obtaining a conditional use requires several meetings with the Zoning and Planning Commission as well as the City Council.
Resident Darlene Heslop suggested Monday that if a builder would benefit from a zoning code amendment allowing 20 more feet of height, no questions asked, then maybe the developer could pay for notice to neighbors themselves.
"We need to put all of the residents and business owners of Elmhurst first," she said.
Werner said the issue has been referred back to the Zoning and Planning Commission, which will likely discuss the matter in August or September.