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Zoning panel nixes apartment project

Neighbors say they fear low-income development

DIXON – On an inherited property, a couple wants to convert an old farmhouse into a duplex and build another house to become a rental.

But neighbors told Lee County's zoning board that they feared it would attract low-income people, with one saying he moved to the country to get away from such development.

The board rejected the couple's request to change the property's zoning from agricultural to multi-family residential, which would have paved the way for their development. But the board used different reasoning from the residents.

On Tuesday, the issue will go before the full Lee County Board.

At a zoning board meeting this month, Paul and Lynn Roe of Grand Detour said they wanted the project at 1518 Atkinson Road to generate income. Her mother died a few years ago, and they inherited the property.

According to the board's meeting minutes:

The couple said they would rely on a self-policing mechanism, which they argued would be more effective in situations with more than two tenants, so as to avoid a "he-said, she-said" dynamic among two tenants.

The Roes said they would improve the rundown property, adding they sought to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. They said that if they cared for the property, their tenants would as well.

The neighbors disagreed, saying they believed the housing could attract tenants who would use the property for crime.

The board agreed that the proposed use would be considered spot zoning, not consistent with uses of nearby properties. They determined that the project would bring no gain for the public because there is no "perceived" need for housing.

Board members also found that the project was incompatible with Lee County's comprehensive plan, which encourages development in areas next to existing developments in cities and villages, with the convenience of municipal services.

The board had no debate over the development before voting to deny the Roes' proposal.

Chris Henkel, Lee County's zoning administrator, said the zoning board followed due process standards.

"Everyone has a right to speak in the process," he said.

To attend

The Lee County Board meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon. The board will vote on a couple's proposal to change the zoning of their Nelson Township property from agricultural to multi-family residential.

Call 815-288-5676 for more information.

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