COD zoning plan gets first OK
By Hank Beckman For The Sun June 7, 2012 9:36PM
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:22AM
The DuPage County Zoning Board of appeals Thursday unanimously recommended a conditional use permit allowing the College of DuPage to exist as a community college under the County’s R-1 zoning code, but limited the College’s freedom of action on future construction.
“This is probably the most unconventional case I can remember,” Trustee James McNamara said before recommending that the board deny COD’s petition because many of the solutions for present issues hadn’t been discussed in public forum.
Trustee Thomas Laz agreed, saying the College was essentially saying that their reasoning that they wanted to do certain things like to do some things, “because it’s a good thing and a good idea” wasn’t reason enough to give the College cart blanche authority to undertake future projects.
“We have no authority to grant approval for concepts,” he said of the College’s vague plans for future buildings.
But Board Chair Robert Kartholl recommended granting the college’s petition, while noting that citizen’s issues with the ongoing renovation of the campus—including but not limited to traffic issues, lighting issues, development and flooding—hadn’t been resolved.
He recommended that language be inserted stipulating that the only conditions approved by the measure would be to allow an education institution in an area zoned R-1, along with its radio tower.
The practical affect of the action was that any building or infrastructure improvements made before they were approved and properly permitted by the Village of Glen Ellyn and before the College became obligated to satisfy County code would still have to be reviewed and permitted by the County.
Glen Ellyn Planning Director Staci Hulseberg would only say the vote was “appropriate” while noting that there were many improvements made over the last few years that had yet to be approved by Glen Ellyn.
Among those improvements that had drawn the ire of residents was a 570-square foot illuminated sign facing Raintree Condominiums.
While the Village and College had disagreements before the sign issues surfaced two years ago, resident’s unhappiness with the sign was what started the public uproar over what is perceived by some residents to be the College’s heavy-handed approach to development.
Another sore point is the proposed water tower facing the Briarcliff and Lake Manor homes on the West end of campus that was started last year, but has so far only been made into a mound of dirt, according to residents.
“It used to be a beautiful field,” Sondra Seery said.
Seery said after the vote that she was happy that at least citizens still had a say in the process.
COD Attorney Ken Florey was satisfied with the vote, saying the Board was presented with a difficult task and had responded with a “good, Solomon-like approval.”
As for the signs already installed that would have to be reviewed, Florey would only say, “We’ll have to see about the signage” and future development.
The two sides have been at odds for several years, the main point of contention being just which local governing body’s building codes and ordinances the College was obligated to satisfy.
The College had argued that as part of the Illinois University system it fell under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Community College Board. The Village maintained that the College was obligated to obey ordinances and satisfy building codes like any other Glen Ellyn property owner.
A 2011 ruling by DuPage Judge Terence Sheen held that the College was indeed part of Glen Ellyn and obligated to follow Village code.
In December 2011, the Village began issuing citations for permit violations related to the ongoing renovation of the COD campus, after which the College Board of Trustees vote to begin the process of de-annexation from the Village.
But a mediation agreement, worked out under the guidance of DuPage Judge Hollis Webster, allowed the College to stay incorporated within Glen Ellyn, but be subject to the codes of DuPage County.
But at what was thought to be a routine County zoning hearing May 10, Glen Ellyn officials—and several hundred residents—showed up to provide input about the ongoing construction on campus.
Village officials expressed surprise at the extent of the College’s plans, citing several proposed new buildings that came uncomfortably close to residential homeowners.
The College responded that the buildings depicted in the plans were merely placeholders and didn’t represent actual buildings that had been approved by the Board.
The College also took the position that, while the Zoning meeting was open to all citizens, the Village was abusing the process and trying to regulate the College’s activities through the County’s zoning process.
That is the argument they made to Judge Webster in a motion to force the Village to adhere to the Intergovernmental Agreement.
The issue now has to be approved by the DuPage County Development Committee, after which it will go to the County Board.