By Dianne Sudbrock
The New Melle Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing as part of their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in New Melle. Over 30 people attended.
The Public Hearing was in regard a proposed change to the screening requirements between commercial and residential properties. Current regulations require a 20-foot wide screening of trees/shrubs, or a 15-foot wide screening with a solid fence plus trees/shrubs – for any properties that are zoned C1, C2 or C3.
Under the proposed new rules, the option of a 20-foot wide screening of just trees/shrubs was eliminated and would be replaced with a 15-foot wide screening that includes a solid fence or masonry wall or equivalent landscaped berm to a height adequate to prevent the direct light from automobile headlights being cast on adjacent residential units but with a minimum height of six feet and not more than 8 feet. The height is reduced to 3-1/2 feet within 15 feet of a public right-of-way. Trees/shrubs would be required alongside the fence/berm, but not on top of the berm.
There was a good discussion and exchange of ideas and concerns. Among the concerns for potential businesses is the cost. In the past, residents have communicated that they prefer small, independently owned businesses rather than corporate chains. The types of regulations implemented by a city affect the cost of development, and therefore can affect the type of businesses that can afford to invest in the city. Commissioner Trevor Goodman stated that he had obtained a quick estimate of about $6000 for 200 feet of vinyl fence (including installation.) That is a substantial cost for an independent small business that might be repurposing an existing building or building new.
On the other hand, residents who live in the city deserve some consideration as to how development adjacent to their property might affect their property values and quality of life.
Joe Nusrala, owner of The Quarry Wine Garden asked about requirements for his property, which is over 20 acres and substantially wooded, to which Brian Nelson, P&Z Chairman responded, “That’s a good point. That’s why we want the public’s input as we move forward with this.” A suggestion was made to allow for a possible 90-foot setback of any structures/improvements, which would then eliminate the need for a fence/screening.
It was also suggested that the commission consider adjusting the requirements based on the various classes of Commercial Zoning: C1 = Local Commercial District, C2 = General Commercial District, or C3 = Highway Commercial District. Under the current ordinance, the requirements are the same regardless of type of commercial classification.
Nelson explained that the board’s job would be to try and balance the concerns of residents with the business owners’ concerns, to the best of their ability. He said the proposed changes were a starting point, so they would take the public input into consideration as they move forward.
Other discussion: In Open Forum, Bill Pollihan, a New Melle resident and former alderman, urged the Planning and Zoning Commission to make sure that any new fire hall that might be built in the city be held to a standard that ensures quality and functionality for at least the next 30 years.
The next regularly scheduled Planning and Zoning meeting should be Tuesday, March 2. Agendas are posted at City Hall, at the Post Office and on the city’s website: www.cityofnewmelle.com.