DIXON – The Lee County Board on Tuesday rejected a proposal to rezone agricultural land to allow for a few apartments in Nelson Township.
“It’s a clear case of spot zoning,” member Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton, said.
One member, Wes Morrissey, D-Amboy, dissented.
“I don’t feel like it’s the county’s position to tell them they can’t put apartments on their land,” he said.
Lynn and Paul Roe of Grand Detour had asked the county to rezone – from agricultural use to multi-family residential – property on Atkinson Road that they had inherited.
They wanted to convert and renovate a former farmhouse into a duplex. Their plan also included building a rental house, expected to be worth $70,000 to $80,000.
During Tuesday’s monthly County Board meeting, member David Gusse, R-Amboy, wanted to know whether the county had ever before approved changing agricultural property to multi-family residential.
Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel, who started in his position about 20 years ago, recalled no other cases. In one example, the county allowed land near Dixon to change from single-family to multi-family, he said.
Henkel said the Roes’ proposal was incompatible with agricultural uses in Nelson Township or anywhere else in the county.
Earlier this month, the zoning board recommended that the county board reject the zoning change. It said the proposal didn’t comply with the county’s comprehensive land-use plan, which favors agricultural uses, unless prospective development is next to a city or village.
At the zoning meeting, neighbors argued the Roes’ apartments could attract low-income people, possibly bringing criminal activity. They said that could reduce their property values.
The zoning board, though, had used none of those arguments in its recommendation.
On Sauk Valley Media’s Facebook page, many commenters criticized the decision, saying they opposed discrimination against low-income people. They said people shouldn’t assume the poor are criminals.