Last week, Eric Sadler, Kankakee County Zoning and Development Coordinator, was asked by Kraftdale homeowner Randy Knickerbocker to review a permit request approved by the City of Kankakee Planning Board.
If approved by the Kankakee City Council, this permit will allow the building and operation of a crematorium across the street from Kraftdale, a residential subdivision nearly 50 years old, in an unincorporated area of Kankakee County. To Mr. and Mrs. Knickerbocker, that seemed to be a violation of Kankakee County’s zoning law for their neighborhood.
But Mr. Sadler said, “There’s nothing I can do for you.”
Maybe not, but according to the County’s own statutes and the State of Illinois Statutes, that is one of Kankakee County’s jobs.
Chapter 121 – ZONING
Article I – In General
Sec. 121-2. – Purpose.
(1) Promoting and protecting the public health, safety, comfort, morals and general welfare;
(7) Assuring orderly growth in the County…by providing that:
…b. Existing residential areas…be protected against intrusion which will interfere with decent living conditions.”
Residents of Kraftdale adjacent to Mr. Jensen’s Kankakee property received certified letters notifying them of Mr. Jensen’s request. That happened because the City Of Kankakee Municipal Code (and also the Illinois Municipal Code) requires:
“For each zoning lot abutting the subject zoning lot, including public rights-of-way, the applicant shall notify the owners of record” (City of Kankakee Zoning Ordinance/1995 Chapter 12 Administration page 12.7.)
This applies irrespective of the property’s status as an unincorporated area or or as an area located in a bordering municipality.
The Knickerbockers pay taxes to Kankakee County to provide them with services that include establishing zoning laws and protecting them against violations of that zoning.
So why isn’t the City of Kankakee – who makes zoning laws and issues permits in Kankakee – hearing from Kankakee County – the Kraftdale governing body who makes zoning laws and issues permits in Kraftdale?
George Washington Jr., the County Board member for District 17 which includes Kraftdale, is the likely government official to take the Kraftdale residents’ request for review to the County Board and to the County Planning Department. But last week, the Knickerbockers did not even know who their County rep was.
And since Mr. Jensen’s recent permit request in early 2011, not one of the government bodies or individual representatives have mentioned the process for objecting to a permit that is incompatible with the abutting area. Kraftdale residents only heard, “There’s nothing I can do for you.”
Mr. Knickerbocker said maybe that’s OK. “If the County doesn’t have any way to defend their own zoning laws, then I could put a pig farm on my property and there’s apparently nothing the County could do about it!”
He went on to say that if the City of Kankakee across the street then objects, the County is telling him by their actions, there is nothing they can do about that either.
But there is something the Kraftdale residents can do without Mr. Sadler and Mr. Washington, Jr. If the Kankakee City Council approves Mr. Jensen’s request tomorrow at the January 17 meeting, the Kraftdale residents can appeal to the state of Illinois. Illinois Compiled Statutes indicate that Kraftdale residents have a legal say in what is built across the street from their property affecting the homes in their subdivision. No arbitrary city and county boundaries interfere with those property rights.
According to the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/11-13-15), property owners have the right to file a lawsuit:
“any owner or tenant of real property, within 1200 feet in any direction of the property on which the building or structure in question is located who shows that his property or person will be substantially affected by the alleged violation”.
And any amendments to zoning ordinances are not final until 90 days after approval by the municipal body, allowing time for Judicial Review to settle disputes.
So if a pig farmer with a permit from unincorporated Kankakee County moves across the street from your home in the city of Kankakee, learn to like it, at least until you get to circuit court.
Read more of Kankakee County’s responsibility to the residents they serve and protect.