Normal Town Council member Kathleen Lorenz fears one of her colleague’s defiance of zoning regulations has set a “very, very bad precedent.”
During Monday’s regular meeting, the council considered approval of a conditional site plan for Stan Nord’s property at 2012 W. College Ave. Last month, town officials notified Nord he had violated code by developing the property without a town-approved site plan.
Lorenz said that Nord’s disregard for the town’s rules might potentially encourage other property owners to do the same.
“What would prevent another applicant, another developer from thumbing their nose at our requirements for site plans again? We open the door to that,” she said.
Nord recused himself and left the council chambers during the discussion; Mayor Chris Koos had hoped Nord or a representative would offer an explanation for his actions. But Koos said the matter of Nord’s conduct is not resolved.
“At some point we’ll try to have a discussion about the other issue later because I don’t think that discussion is over with at this point,” Koos said.
After Lorenz’s motion to table the vote to give Nord an opportunity to respond failed on a tie vote, Koos admitted the conditional site plan meets the town’s requirements and the council voted unanimously for approval.
Karyn Smith said she didn’t think anything could be gained by “dragging this into further discussion” and Scott Preston suggested the council should only focus on the approving the site plan and not the ramifications of Nord's violations.
But some council members still seemed uncomfortable with the entire matter.
“I don’t know right now what’s itching me more, my sweater or the situation,” said Chemberly Cummings, saying Nord’s “braggadocious” behavior put the council in a no-win position.
“We’re going to always come out looking like the bad guy, either seeming like the bully and picking on someone or giving a pass to a bully in a sense.”
Council member Kevin McCarthy said that Nord, as an elected member, is not an ordinary citizen and cannot be treated like one. McCarthy shared an anecdote about someone coming up to him at a recent fundraiser to say they were thinking of moving to Normal and running for office because “he knew once he was on the council he wouldn’t have to follow the rules.”
McCarthy said that sentiment illustrated a need for further discussion.
“That is what the public perception (is) of what is going on here,” he said. “As much as I would like this to go away, I think this deserves a conversation. … What happens when a council member breaks the rules? Are we going to let that happen without consequence?”
Lorenz, who previously served on the planning commission, also noted that Nord has listed the property for sale and may never face any repercussions from his violations.
“We have to be wary about what the true intent of the developer is,” she said. “It puts this whole thing further on squishy ground for me to know that it's up for sale. ... He could never be compliant as the owner, sell it, and have benefited – and never ever complied with our rules. That just is really, really concerning to me.”
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