City of Harvard Planning & Zoning Commission met July 2.
Here is the minutes provided by the commission:
Chairman Carbonetti called the meeting to order at 7:00 pm. City Clerk Moller called roll to establish a quorum. Commission members present: Jim Carbonetti, Tom Condon, Mike Grieshop, Jim Hutchinson and Ian McCafferty. Also present were Community Development Director Steve Santeler, Code Enforcement Officer Anne Nutley and members of the audience.
Chairman Carbonetti opened the floor to public comment not pertaining to the petition. There was none.
Planning and Zoning Commission Minutes of February 5, 2019 - Approved
A motion was made by Commissioner Condon, seconded by Commissioner Grieshop to accept the minutes of the Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting of February 5, 2019, as presented. All ayes. Motion carried.
DJX Real Est Invstmnts LLC - Petition Seeking Relief from Table 8-1. Use Matrix, of the Unified Development Ordinance to Plant and Harvest Hay in a R2 Zoning District in Turtle Crossing Subdivision
Chairman Carbonetti opened the hearing in the petition of Xiangsheng Hu, David Fu and Paul Liu d/b/a DJX Real Est Invstmnts LLC. The petitioners are seeking relief from Table 8-1, Use Matrix, of the Unified Development Ordinance to plant and Harvest Hay in a R2 Zoning District in Turtle Crossing Subdivision. The subject property is located in Turtle Crossing Subdivision, Unit 1, Vacant Lots 16-59, 93-102, 104 in Chemung Township. Said lots are located at Apple Valley Rd., East 8th St., West of Sage Ln., 6th St. and 7th St.
The parties of interest in the petition were present. The Notice of Hearing was published per statutory requirements in the Northwest Herald. Certified notices were sent to property owners within 250' of the subject property. The Certificate of Publication, completed petition and staff report were entered into the record.
Presentation of Evidence by Petitioners
Upon being sworn in, Xiangsheng (nickname Sean) Hu, David Fu and Cody Book presented their petition requesting relief from Table 8-1, Use Matrix, of the Unified Development Ordinance to allow no-till in seeds for haying on residential lots in Turtle Crossing Subdivision. Cody Book noted that per City code, the lots need to be cut to 5" or less. If the lots aren't maintained to that height, subsequent notices and fines are issued. The property consists of about 20 acres which is difficult to cut and costly to maintain, The lots in question are curbed in and slightly developed. Planting/harvesting hay would make it easier to maintain at a cheaper cost and he would get some value out of mowing it instead of having to charge the petitioner each time it is mowed. The petitioner is not seeking to change the zoning.
Questions/Discussion by Planning and Zoning Commissioners to Petitioners Chairman Carbonetti opened the floor to questions from the Commissioners.
Commissioner Condon inquired if the reason the petitioners are talking hay is to get value or it's easier to cut. Cody responded its economics. He gets no value if he mows the property and the grass just lays there and he has to charge the petitioner.
Commissioner Grieshop felt the problem is that the Commission previously addressed a similar petition to farm in a developed, residential area which was denied. The property in question is developed with transformers and phone pedestals. The Commission has to ponder what was said in the past to other developers that if property is developed with utilities, it couldn't be commercially farmed. Sean said the main purpose was not farming. Commissioner Grieshop said he understands and appreciates what the petitioner is requesting, but the Commission has due diligence to look at what was done in the past.
Cody noted that this isn't Chicago and Harvard was built on farming.
Chairman Carbonetti noted that the new UDO doesn't make any provisions for farming.
Identification of Objectors/Supporters/Witnesses/Audience Participation
Upon being sworn in, the following individuals addressed the Planning and Zoning Commission as objectors to the petition.
Valerie Chisholm, 1408 Sage Ln., Harvard stated she and her partner were opposed to the petition. The property is in a residential area and she felt the petitioners should be required to mow the lots. She drove by the area tonight and the grass is long and some of the fire hydrants on Sage Ln, are completely blocked. She looked up the assessed value of the lots and the petitioner pays much less in taxes than the neighboring vacant lots. Other concerns were that she and her partner have allergies, hay would provide a breeding ground for ticks and the petitioner might be looking to doing this frequently so he could seek to rezone the property to ag in the future.
Fran Webb, 1601 gth St., Harvard stated she was opposed to the petition for health reasons. Her husband has bronchial asthma and allergies and allowing the petitioners' request would not advantageous to people's health. She also expressed concern about eminent domain in the future.
Charlie Gorman, 305 N. Jefferson St., Harvard stated his issue with the petition is the tax situation. He asked the petitioners if they would seek a reduction in taxes after they brought in a crop for 3 years. The petitioner responded it was not his intention to seek a reduction in taxes. His purpose is that it costs so much to maintain the grass and he felt it would cause less of a health issue if it were cut less frequently. Mr. Gorman noted if the petition is approved, the petitioner could still apply for a tax reduction, after which it would be out of the City's hands. If a reduction were granted based on an ag request, the petitioner's taxes would be lowered but everyone else's taxes would increase and for that reason he was opposed to the petition.
Phil Bruchman, 807 Apple Valley Rd., Harvard noted that during the time Mr. Book plants the fields, he takes his equipment out down 8th St. and leaves mud all over which isn't cleaned up and eventually goes into the storm sewers. Another interest is the City shut off valves and curbs which might be damaged. Mr. Bruchman was not totally against the petition and was willing to give it a go if the petitioners would show a reasonable “taking care of things attitude”. He suggested the petitioners use some kind of flag situation, at Mr. Book's expense, to identify the location of hazardous things to prevent damage.
Additional Petitioner Statement
Sean made a final statement and noted more frequent cuttings would create more grass/health issues. He reiterated it was not his intention to avoid the taxes. Cody brought up the 5-day time frame to mow the property when notices are issued. Chairman Carbonetti stated that was a question for the Building Dept.
Additional Audience Comments
Upon being sworn in, Bona Heinsohn, 1325 7th St., Harvard, addressed the Planning and Zoning Commission in support of the petition. Their property borders Turtle Crossing and is one of the last single-family homes constructed prior to the crash. She and her husband farm and they also farm unrestored acres for the forest preserve. Agriculture is an outstanding interim use of property because it allows the property and ecosystem to be maintained and weeds are routinely cut and not allowed to go to pollination. It has also worked with great success in conservation districts, forest preserves, other municipalities and other property within the City. Most of the concerns expressed can be mediated with provisions to set timeframes to cut, specific permissions as to what types of equipment and chemicals can be used use and allowed access points.
Vote on Petition
A motion was made by Commissioner Grieshop, seconded by Commissioner Condon to recommend to the City Council that the petition be denied because the Commission has set precedent to other developers that once a property is developed with electricity and telephones to the point that it is ready to be built, not to allow commercial farming. Roll call vote: Condon, aye; Grieshop, aye; Hutchinson, aye; McCafferty, aye and Carbonetti, aye. Motion to deny the petition was approved five to zero.
The Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendation will come before the City Council at their next regular meeting on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, at 7 pm to be held in the City Council Chambers, 201 W. Front St., Harvard.
At 7:33 pm, a motion was made by Commissioner Hutchinson, seconded by Commissioner Condon to adjourn the meeting. All ayes. Motion carried.