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October 3, 2022

Batavia Feels No Obligation to Follow Its Own Zoning Code

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On June 18, 2015

Batavia, IL:

Edit: Audio fixed

The Batavia Plan Commission will decide on June 17th whether they approve the re-wording of the Batavia Zoning Code 5.803E, which applies to Chapter 5.8, Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan Text or Map. Residents already witnessed Batavia City Staff violating this code, and do not trust Staff to do a thorough, accurate analysis of conformance of a proposed property development to the Comprehensive Plan. Residents do not want this Zoning code reworded.

Section 5.8 of the Zoning Code describes the Formal Procedures for the process of amending the Zoning Map. [Here]. Residents have reported a violation of Code 5.803E by Batavia City staff:
—- —
Code 5.803 E: Staff Report. The Director of Community Development shall prepare a staff report and transmit it to the Plan Commission. A copy of the staff report shall be made available to the public and the applicant prior to the public hearing. The report shall include a determination of whether the proposed change conforms to the goals and policies of each Element of the Plan.

Last summer Batavia residents battled to defeat the rezoning (from multi-family residents to light industrial) of a 55 acre lot at the corner of Wind Energy Pass and Kirk Rd in Batavia. This intersection serves as a major gateway to 1,000+ homes in Batavia which are across the street from where a developer (Missner Group) had generally proposed building 800,000 sq. ft. of warehouses with truck bays for 130 semi -trucks which would have required this rezoning.

A rezoning process requires amending the Comprehensive Plan Map by virtue of Batavia’s Zoning Code, therefore, Batavia City Staff was required to follow Zoning Code 5.803E above. Note that the Comprehensive Plan is a statement of Batavia’s “policy relating to the physical development of the community [of Batavia]. The Comprehensive Plan(here)  represents the vision for the growth of the City into the foreseeable future” as stated in the Comprehensive Plan document.

Batavia residents fought City Staff because of the injustices surrounding the rezoning process where City Staff recommended in favor of rezoning for an industrial park (where no others existed) in their neighborhood. Residents’ key objections were that an industrial park would lower their property values and destroy the neighborhood character that they currently enjoyed. City Staff never acknowledged these objections by the residents during any of the proceedings that allowed residents to voice their concerns, i.e. the Public Hearing.

Batavia residents have a right to rely on its 350 goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan. However, Batavia Staff denied Batavia residents a fair and accurate evaluation of how the Missner Group’s rezoning request conformed with the Comprehensive Plan before the Public Hearing (3/19/14) for this rezoning. This would have enabled Batavia residents to understand if or how City Staff had determined conformance or not, and therefore residents could have addressed or questioned Staff’s evaluation of conformance when the residents testified at the Public Hearing.

On the contrary, Batavia City Staff:
a) Did not prepare the report as was required in the above 5.803E code (i.e. before the Public Hearing)
b) Prepared a report, but it was after the Public Hearing and there were erroneous presumptions by City Staff in how they evaluated what conformed to the Goals and Policies of the Comprehensive Plan
c) Published (3/28/14) the report, after it was due – post Public Hearing -with merely speculative analysis since the developer had not provided them yet with their final plans for the development. So City Staff created the report that was based on only “possibilities” of what the developer (Missner Group) thought they might develop on the property, and so Staff’s analysis of conformance to the Comprehensive Plan was sheer speculation and guesswork, without any solid development plans from the Missner Group and

d) Proved that they could not be trusted to do any fair assessment of conformance to the Comprehensive Plan, and more importantly, even decide which of the Comprehensive Plan goals and policies were pertinent or not for the conformance evaluation. [Staff memo Missner Project]

So Batavia residents question:
1. Why Staff felt that they were above the law and didn’t feel they had to provide the requisite report in Zoning Code 5.803E?

2. Why Staff, when they finally did do the report after the public hearing (which was too late for residents to react to their erroneous evaluation of conformance to the Comprehensive Plan) swayed the Plan Commission telling them that the amendment (for the rezoning of the stated property) conforms to the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan and conforms to the Land Use Map?

3. Why Staff even conduct with the Public Hearing (3/19/14) prematurely without Missner Group’s more definitive plans for their proposed industrial park?

On 4/17/14, the Batavia Plan Commission voted 4:3 to approve the amendment of the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Map. At that point, Batavia Residents, outraged that they had been unfairly treated by Batavia City Hall (specifically, not allowed to have the Staff Report before the Public Hearing, and then subsequently, with no more opportunity to voice their concerns after that, City Staff misled the Plan Commission on the conformance issues, fought back. Although ultimately Missner Group retreated and avoided all contact with City Staff once the citizens’ watchdog group, Keep Batavia Neighborhoods (www.KeepBataviaNeighborhoods.com) took charge, it took an army of Batavia residents and substantial monies from residents to prove to City Hall something that was so obvious in the first place.

When Batavia residents asked Mr. Bill McGrath during a 1/15/15 meeting with him, as to why he violated Zoning Code 5.803E (and not publish the report before the Public Hearing), he said “Staff admits that they didn’t write a report that included an evaluation of each and every element of the thing [Plan]. And the past practice of the Plan Commission and City Council has not raised that issue and felt the discussions they have had about conformance with the Plan has been adequate to protect the community”. Listen to the dialog between a Batavia resident and Mr. McGrath [approved audiotaping}

AUDIO TAPE #1

The above audio is where McGrath admits to not doing the report, although there is plenty on that tape that is equally offensive to the residents, but that’s for another post.

And, more dialog about this violation during a Committee of the Whole meeting on 2/24/15 (first man’s voice is Mr. McGrath; 2nd man’s voice, at the end of the tape) is Alderman Alan Wolf, COW Chair)

AUDIO TAPE 2

In the above audio is where McGrath admits to not doing the report and not wanting to do the report.. Note that although Ald Wolff said that he would get to the bottom of the issue between 5:00 and 5:50, it never was done.

Batavia residents do not want Zoning Code 5.803E changed in any way at all. And, they are pleading with their City officials to keep Code 5.803E as it exists now, with a promise to obey it and not violate it ever again. Residents wonder, “is this too much to ask of City Staff?”.

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