Despite protests, Planning Commission OKs rezone

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SHERIDAN — Despite objections from residents who said the plan stands to increase traffic in their neighborhood, the Sheridan Planning Commission voted Monday to recommend for approval a rezone request submitted by First Federal Savings Bank.

If ultimately approved by the Sheridan City Council, the measure would reclassify about 10,440 square feet on the southeast corner of Illinois and East Heald streets from a residential designation to a commercial one.

“In the staff’s mind, this area is a transition point (between the two designations),” City Planning and Development Director Robert Briggs told the Commission prior to recommending approval of the request.

Bank representatives said business levels have increased in recent years, necessitating a new administrative building and parking lot that they plan to construct on the property.

First Federal Executive Vice President Kevin Bailey said the proposed office building — slated to be constructed at 717 Illinois St. — will not be used by bank customers and will be built in the same architectural style as surrounding homes.

The parking lot on the current 705 Illinois St. would be constructed adjacent to an existing church lot.

Following a review by his office, Briggs recommended approval of the request and answered several questions from residents regarding the issue.

Among their concerns: increased traffic and ambient light.

Illinois Street resident Ernie Scott told the Commission his quality of life stands to be adversely affected by the plan and that his neighbors are “overwhelmingly” worried about the potential effects of the project.

“People feel like the neighborhood is worth protecting,” he said.

Scott presented a petition signed by 24 residents asking the Commission to reject the proposal.

He said that in addition to their immediate concerns, residents are worried the bank will eventually change their plans and pursue a more obtrusive project once the property has been rezoned.

As it stands, bank representatives said they don’t intend to begin construction on the office building for another several years.

“They’re trying to change how these properties have historically been used,” Scott said. “It’s so they can profit, and that’s going to be at the expense of others.”

Following his remarks, the five members of the Planning Commission present at the meeting voted unanimously to approve the request. It now goes for consideration before the full City Council where it will require three readings and subsequent approvals in order for the property to become officially rezoned.

“First Federal is probably one of the better neighbors you could have there,” Planning Commissioner Thayer Shafer told the residents in attendance. “I think your worries are really unfounded.”

Following the vote, Scott said that while he was disappointed in the outcome, he would likely continue to fight against the measure.

“The process is there for people to participate in,” he said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, members of the Planning Commission recommended of approval a set of changes to the city’s regulations for signs and fencing in order to clarify what Robert Briggs referred to as “problematic” language.

In a work session prior to the start of the meeting, the group also discussed revisions to the city’s planned unit development ordinance that are intended to allow for a more seamless interpretation.

Planned unit developments are projects which allow for more flexibility than is typically afforded by standard zoning in an effort to create “more desirable environments through the application of flexible and diversified land development standards under a professional, prepared, comprehensive plan and program,” according to the city’s current ordinance purpose statement.

No official action was taken on the matter.

The revisions are slated to go before the city’s legal counsel and public works department for internal review this week.

By |July 9th, 2013|

About the Author:

Paolo Cisneros joined The Sheridan Press staff in August 2012. He covers business, energy and public safety. A Chicago native, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011.