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Hinsdale, Illinois |


Published June 7, 2007

Hinsdale Club, ZBA structure absorb most of trustees' time at village board meeting

  By Polly Rix

   Village President Mike Woerner seemed to have anticipated what he would face Tuesday.
   Minutes after the regular board meeting started, Woerner stood up from the board table and walked over to the podium, noting it was unusual to speak from the stand.
   Woerner reiterated his goals as village president and attempted to explain his desire to work as a team and move the village forward.
   “This will be a board of trust that is not and will not be afraid to think outside the box,” Woerner said.
   He added he wants to “move forward not backward ... learn from mistakes ... hold ourselves accountable ... and put an end to frivolous lawsuits.”
   The packed room was silent until it was audience members’ turn to talk. Then they spent the next 160 minutes questioning, discussing and offering opinions and experiences.
   Community members were upset about a lawsuit village officials filed May 29 with the 18th Judicial Circuit Court asking for a ruling on whether the zoning board of appeals has the authority to hear an appeal of The Hinsdale Club decision. (See related story on Page 7).
   A proposed change to the zoning board’s structure also deeply concerned some — but also had the passionate support of others.
   Nick Etten of Hawthorne Lane said he couldn’t understand how the village could sue residents for protesting a rezoning.
   “I think at best it’s a strong-arm tactic,” Etten said. “There are all sorts of other tactics the village could have taken.” For instance the village could have waited to see if the ZBA even agreed to hear the case, he said.
   Etten pushed to find out who authorized the lawsuit — and as officials hesitated and conferred in whispers — the crowd joined in loudly, asking just who authorized the suit.
   “I did,” Woerner said. “The village manager could have responded to you with a letter to say this is not something to go to the ZBA,” he said.
   Woerner said he consulted with the village attorney and village manager and decided filing a motion for declaratory judgment was the best way to get a clarification and to let residents know the appeal isn’t within the zoning board’s jurisdiction.
   Another Hawthorne Lane resident, Ralph Mueller, said he couldn’t understand why village officials don’t want the ZBA to hear the case.
   “The Hinsdale Club is one of the most significant developments for the village. It will change the village forever,” Mueller said.
   Those who have watched the process closely perceive the actions of village officials to be rushed. Mueller said he and others simply want a chance to read the agreement and digest it; they want village officials to take their concerns to heart.
   The village’s agreement with The Hinsdale Club will be posted on the village’s Web site at Residents can send comments to officials before Tuesday, June 19.
   Another sore point with the residents were comments that appeared in the May 31 issue of The Hinsdalean. Woerner’s choice of words left residents feeling bullied, they said.
   “I wish I could rewind the tape,” Woerner said as he apologized. “The intention on my part was not to scare people, to frighten people at the front door, but I was getting to the point of overload. I feel very strongly ... this PUD has no place on the ZBA agenda.”
   Any residents named on the village’s lawsuit can ask to withdraw their names from the appeal petition. If they do so, attorney Ken Florey said the village will remove them from the suit.

 ZBA variation denied
At Tuesday’s meeting Woerner also suggested that the zoning board be restructured as an advisory commission and report to the village board.
   Many communities structure their ZBAs in this manner, he said. Currently the ZBA is an independent body of the village.
   Longtime resident Karl Weber called Woerner’s idea “the dumbest legislation to come before this board — and not only that, but it’s downright dangerous.”
   Others, such as residents Dale Kleber and Jim Johannesen, supported the idea.
   “I think it’s dangerous sticking our heads in the sand and not look at ways to improve,” said Johannesen, who has spent several months seeking approval from the ZBA for a home he wants to build and has a lawsuit pending against the village. “We need to find a better way.”
   Kleber said even though he had a positive outcome with a ZBA request, he thinks the zoning board should be restructured.
   “The ZBA is not the Supreme Court and it is being conducted as if it is,” Kleber said. “It is too lengthy, too frustrating.”
   In the end Woerner’s recommendation for the text amendment to make the change failed when no one seconded the motion. Without a second, discussion could not even take place.



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