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Local

An end to Sterling Cottages uncertainty could be in sight

Plan Commission OK's zoning, plat requests

STERLING – After 5 years of uncertainty for residents of Coventry Village Sterling Cottages, a resolution is within reach.

The owners of the nursing facility and cottages on East St. Marys Road had petitioned the city's Plan Commission in September for zoning and platting changes that would allow them to turn over deeds to the cottages to residents and their heirs. The cottages would be managed by a homeowners association.

The owners, filing as WC-Sterling LLC, said the cottages were not financially viable and giving ownership to the residents would be better than filing bankruptcy. In that scenario, residents could be forced to leave their homes.

After months of working with the city to satisfy its requests, the owners were before the commission again Thursday with its request to subdivide the cottages from the nursing facility and attain the proper zoning designation.

"This has been years in the making, unfortunately, and we're trying to make the best of a difficult situation," said Karin Berg, a Chicago attorney representing the owners. "We believe the city's concerns have been addressed, and my client will continue to manage the nursing facility."

The commission was presented with two separate issues – the rezoning of the nursing facility and cottages, and the plat requirements.

Both motions were unanimously approved by the commission and moved to the City Council. Building and Zoning Superintendent Amanda Schmidt said the commission's recommendations would be on the May 15 agenda.

The city rezoned the properties with a planned unit development designation to ensure the cottages would be in line with city code.

"This was an insurance policy for the owners," City Planner Dustin Wolff said. "If owners should decide to sell and the properties aren't legal and conforming, that's a problem with lenders."

The residents would own a few feet of land around their buildings and the homeowners association would be responsible for larger common areas.

There are 32 duplex cottages and 1 four-plex building, but many have been empty for a long time. Berg said net revenues were coming in at about $142,000 a year, which didn't even cover the $150,000 a year owed in property taxes. The nursing facility had 131 beds.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Plan Commission's recommendations will be before the Sterling City Council at its May 15 meeting. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 212 Third Ave., in the first-floor Council Chambers.

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

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