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Storage business expansion, work near cell tower gets commission’s OK

Storage unit request raises questions, but still passes

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 8:54 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 5:56 a.m. CDT

STERLING – The Sterling Plan Commission moved two zoning issues to the City Council on Thursday – one with its solid recommendation, and the other with some reservations.

A public hearing was held for a petition from Kunes Sterling L-M LCC and Grain Comm III to expand a special-use permit at an existing cellular tower at 2811 Locust St. Verizon needs more land to build an enclosure north of the existing tower to house additional equipment, including antennas and a generator, at the site.

The land is owned by local businessman Pete Harkness, and Kunes was Harkness Ford when the cell tower was first put up at the site.

City Planner Dustin Wolff said the area is zoned for regional business, and under the current code, the panel's blessing wouldn't be needed if not for the extra space that is required.

"The shelter would be fenced, landscaping would surround it, and access to the site wouldn't change," Wolff said. "The general public probably wouldn't even notice it was going up."

Amanda Schmidt, the city's building and zoning administrator, said there had been no written comments from the public, and no one spoke up about it during the hearing.

The commission, missing a couple of its members, voted 4-0 to recommend the expansion of the special use designation to the council.

The other petition also involves land owned by Harkness. Todd Ewers of Milledgeville, owner of Busy Properties LLC, wants to buy about 3 1/2 acres of land from Harkness to expand his mini-storage business at 3705 Emerson Road.

"I want the building to go up west of the current units, and I want to build this spring or summer if I can get the agreement in place," Ewers said.

Ewers said he has expanded twice already since buying the Emerson Road property in 2005.

The property is outside the city limits, so the decision ultimately will be made by the Whiteside County Board, but because it's within a 1 1/2-mile radius of the city, it also gets a say in the matter.

The petition asks for the land to be rezoned for business use. Most of the acreage is now zoned for agriculture, but a small portion of the land near a subdivision is zoned residential.

Wolff said he wasn't necessarily opposed to the request, but he was concerned about the proximity to adjacent homes.

"There's no green space, stormwater management plan, or any kind of buffering between light industrial and residential here," Wolff said. "We wouldn't allow it in the city, but this is in the county, and our comprehensive plan doesn't make a specific recommendation."

He reiterated that that if the city did object, it wouldn't kill the project, but it would require the county board to get a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority for approval.

When asked if water was a problem after rains, Ewers said most of it went behind the buildings into a field, and it really hadn't been a problem.

City Attorney Tim Zollinger said that instead of sending the county a letter of objection, the commission could send one of non-objection, which would give the city's OK, but still voice any concerns.

Commissioner Karen Chevalier made a motion to recommend sending a letter of non-objection to the county board, which asks them to consider sight lines, drainage, and buffering.

The motion was approved unanimously, and the recommendation will be moved to the council for its consideration.

WHAT'S NEXT

Both zoning recommendations will be considered by the Sterling City Council when it next meets at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at City Hall, 212 Third Ave., in the first-floor Council Chambers. The meeting is backed up a day because of the Presidents Day holiday.

Go to sterling-il.gov or call City Hall at 815-632-6621 for an agenda or more information.

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