Impacts of Conditional Use Ordinance and Sunset Clause on economic development examined before County Board

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[January 18, 2016]  LINCOLN - On Thursday, January 14, 2016, the Logan County Board met for their Board Workshop with nine members present. The board has 12 seats with 11 filled at present.

Also attending on Thursday were representatives from the Logan County Farm Bureau, Lincoln Rural Fire Department, Logan County Emergency Management Agency, 911 Board, Zoning Officer Will D'Andrea, and Doug and Laurie Muck.

The evening's discussion focused on the proposed amendments to the Conditional Use Ordinance. There were also updates from the Finance Committee on a few budget items that need approval.

Board member Chuck Ruben said that come next Tuesday at the Regular board session he would make a motion to place the resolution to amend the Conditional Use Ordinance recommended by the Zoning Board of Appeals to go on display for the next 30 days. He said the committee will have time to review it further and more amendments could be made after that time.

Dave Opperman of the Logan County Farm Bureau said the Farm Bureau Board is in favor of the proposed amendments to the Conditional Use, and the proposed Sunset Clause of three years with two one year extensions. Opperman said there are projects that have been approved, but then nothing moves along, so those areas are tied up. Having more definition will be an advantage for the community when planning new endeavors.

Doug Muck said since he has many business operations and developments, and acquired draft legislations for other counties, he wants to provide some additional provisions and language to the Conditional Use Ordinance and Sunset Clause.

The Zoning Board of Appeal approved the language at a public hearing on Thursday, January 7, but Muck feels that some of the language needs to be clarified and softened.

Muck sent letters to the whole county board about the proposed amendments listing some of his suggested changes. He objects to the Sunset Clause and the hearings required for extensions and listed several reasons related to how it would affect mining.

In the letter Muck said, "A mining operator, before investing in plant set up, requires assurance that the available reserves may be mined at the speed they can economically and practically proceed. . . Thus, 'sunsetting' the M-3 zoning classification or conditional use mining permits will deny those potential mining operators the assurances they desire." He said the board "should provide a longer sunset period for mining operation."

Muck said he wants to add: "Delays caused by litigation or other matter not within complete control of the applicant for the conditional use permit shall suspend, stay, and toll the running of the time" to the Sunset Clause. Muck said they have been awaiting a decision on a lawsuit on a previous rezoning ordinance from December 2012, and the judge still has not ruled on it. He said operators should not be penalized for delays out of their control such as weather disasters. There are also periods of non-mining and moving between parcels.

Muck said on the section about abandonment, he wants to add: "For M-3 zoning districts, the use shall not be deemed or considered abandoned until the Illinois Department of Natural Resources certifies completion of all land reclamation activities required by State statute or regulation."

Muck said adding the words: "multiple, repeated, flagrant, unabated, health and safety code violation" would soften the section on revoking permits.

Muck also wants to add a waiver clause that says, "The County Board may waive application of the provisions" of the other sections "in whole or in part, for good cause shown." He said certain conditions should be considered for waivers.

Muck asked that the ordinance go back to the Planning and Zoning Committee and State's Attorney Jonathan Wright before approval. He said Labor Union 965 has also discouraged passing the ordinance as it is written.

Board member Kevin Bateman said he has no problems amending it, but had asked Muck to come up with something the board could work with.

The board agreed to weigh what Muck said in his letter and at the Workshop. Bateman thanked Muck for providing more language for a good working document.

Bateman said it is hard for the Logan County Board to know what businesses are turned away when land is zoned and nothing is done.

Muck said businesses are looking at news stories and consider the environment before making a decision to come to Logan County. He said abatements are better than sunset clauses, which he feels are for more densely populated areas.

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Zoning Officer Will D'Andrea said conditions, criteria and environmental changes are reasons projects should not linger for years. There is a need for the clause and reasons they apply to various industries.

Board member Gene Rohlfs said the Logan County Board is being painted as looking for time to run out on projects, but says the county wants new businesses. People can reapply for permits after the five years is up.

Laurie Muck said zoning is for orderly development, and her opposition is due to some of the conditions being set. She said Conditional Use regulations are more appropriate for projects like wind farms, and fears too many Conditional Use regulations will drive away businesses. Muck also said LaSalle County has specific regulations for what is not controlled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Laurie Muck said operators may be driven away by the Sunset Clause. Many have wanted the mining, but she feels that is not the message being sent out. She said two mining companies have already been driven away because of the ordinance.

Bateman read a letter from Invenergy, a company who has talked about building a wind farm north of Atlanta, and said they may also be driven away by a Sunset Clause. Invenergy said a Sunset Clause of five years would work better since wind farms take longer to develop, and small wording changes would help.

Board Chairman Dave Hepler said American Wind Energy and the Relight Wind Farm project are already in their fifth year and asked if the three year clause would drive away other wind farm projects.

Doug Muck said there is much work to be done when setting up wind farms, so the clause could dissuade those projects. He said the wind farms have been making some progress as they have been working with permits, though some may perceive nothing is being done. Muck said the board should ask wind farm companies how this clause would affect projects. He said if the board feels a business is not progressing, they should contact the business to ask questions about it.


Bateman said the clause actually allows five years since there are two one year extensions allowed after the first three years.

Board member Gene Rohlfs said that after three years, the board would look at what has been done and would extend permits if the operators are making progress.

Ruben said he is opposed to changes in zoning, but both sides have some valid points, so there is room for compromise. He wants to find a happy medium and suggested the Sunset Clause allow five years plus two one-year extensions. Ruben said the Planning and Zoning Committee will likely make more changes when it comes off display.

Discussion on the proposed changes will continue at the Regular Board meeting on Tuesday, January 19.

[Angela Reiners]

You may review the recommendations made by the ZBA to amend language related to Conditional Use here -Logan County Zoning Board recommendations for amendment to Zoning Ordinance, Conditional Use - pdf

Documents and past related articles:

01/15/16 -
County prepares to update Conditional Use sections in Zoning Ordinance

11/16/2015 - Sunsets with sunset clause on Logan County Conditional Use revisions

03/19/2015 -
Logan County Board passes zoning ordinance modifications

02/07/2015 -
Public hearing introduces Logan County zoning language modernization

A copy of the proposed language changes to the Zoning Ordinance - pdf

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