Members of the Planning Commission in Normal expressed skepticism of Town Council member Stan Nord even as they unanimously suggested approval for a site plan for his property.
The recommendation headed to the town council is the latest action in a three-year dispute over a plat and site plan for land along Interstate 74 at 2012 West College.
Town officials have noted Nord has developed and then expanded the development without permits and without regard to town requests for him to follow regulations.
As the hearing began, Commission Chair A.J. Zimmerman tried to forestall digressions, saying the commission was there only to consider the elements of the plan.
"The media and even everyday citizens in this community can ask the applicant why he made the conscious decision not to comply with these simple and straightforward requirements and why he chose to disregard repeated town staff requirements to cease development and actually have a site plan approved first. As a citizen I or you may have an issue with how the applicant has conducted himself. But, as commissioners on this planning commission, what we are here to do today is to focus on this location, 2012 West College and on the site plan,” said Zimmerman.
The admonition didn't work.
Commission member Bob Broad said in all other decisions in his time on the commission, he has relied on the trustworthiness of the applicant.
"That trust has been destroyed by the applicant insofar as the applicant has refused for years to comply with code even having been notified repeatedly and requested repeatedly to obey the code," said Broad.
Broad suggested in the absence of trust, the commission recommend to the town council they require Nord fulfill responsibilities before approval of the site plan instead of after.
The plan requires construction of a water detention facility, erosion control measures, planting of a few additional trees and landscaping, installation of a bike rack, and other minor provisions.
Town staff said the commission should not attempt to impose prerequisites.
"Typically, the trustworthiness of a particular applicant is not a factor that we would consider," said Town Attorney Brian Day. "I am a little leery of dragging that in because that gets us really close to a constitutional line. When we start making certain rules for certain people it gets us into some due process equal protection issues we would prefer to avoid if at all possible."
In addition, a lot of the things Nord must do, Day said, can't happen without approval of the site plan first. For instance, Nord needs plan approval before he can get certain state permits.
The commission recommended approval of the plan and a requirement that Nord have the work done within 45 days of town council finalization of the plan.
"What I don't want to see happen is that the ongoing business gets in the way of these 45 days and that is a reason for not doing it. I think first and foremost to the extent that containers need to be moved so they can actually do the work that that be done and not be used as some sort of an excuse to not do the work," said Zimmerman.
Commissioner Dave Shields asked if the business operating illegally must stop operating illegally until the work is done?
Day said probably not.
"They would not have to cease operations if the owner is making good faith efforts to comply with the site plan," said Day.
"It's up to the town staff to be the enforcers," said Commissioner Mike Matejka.
"This is a backwards case,” said Zimmerman. “Right now, we are in this sort of bizzarro world where we are trying to make sure that deconstruction happens as opposed to construction.”
Nord did not attend the hearing and has not yet responded to an email request for comment sent late Thursday evening.
"The town has been waiting three years for this property owner to comply with code. So, I think 45 days would be just fine, if it actually happens," said Broad.
The Town Council will consider the recommendation March 16.
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