Public Watchdog.org

Mayor Maloney Joins Mayor Dave With His First Veto

10.24.17

Mayor Dave Schmidt exercised his first veto of City Council action in June 2009, little more than a month after being sworn in as mayor. At that time, nobody knew whether any previous Park Ridge mayor had ever vetoed City Council action.

And as of today, that remains the case.

But although it took Mayor Marty Maloney almost six months to find a Council action worth vetoing, last Monday (October 16) night he boldly went where only Schmidt had gone before: He vetoed the Council’s October 2, 2017 endorsement – by a vote of 4 (Alds. Joyce, Milissis, Wilkening and Shubert) to 3 (Alds. Moran, Melidosian and Mazzuca) – of a major variance from the City’s sign ordinance that would permit a new sign to be erected in front of the BP gas station at 1220 West Touhy Avenue that is more than double the size the sign ordinance allows.

That variance previously had been approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”) at its August 24, 2017 meeting by a 4 (members Garrick Bunting, Rebecca Leslie, Linda Nagle and Steve Schilling) to 2 (Atul Karkhanis and Missy Langan) majority for reasons that are hardly clear from reading the meeting minutes.

The BP station sought the variance on the basis that forcing it to comply with the current sign ordinance that permits pole signs of “only” 32 square feet would leave it at a competitive disadvantage with the 91 square foot sign for the Shell station immediately east of it and with the 70 square foot sign in front of the Thornton’s station a half-block further east.

As we understand it, because both the Shell sign and the Thornton’s sign were in place before the ordinance reducing signage size was enacted, those other two signs were “grandfathered” as an exception to the size restriction. That’s pretty much the accepted practice when new ordinances of this type are enacted.

But that doesn’t explain why BP deserved a variance permitting it to erect a new sign of 70 square feet – more than double what the current sign ordinance allows. And, interestingly enough, ZBA member Missy Langan appeared before the Council to request that the ZBA’s action be disregarded.

Unfortunately, the only arguments made in support of the variance by the aldermen tended toward: (a) the ZBA has recommended it; and (b) it’s a reasonable accommodation for a local business.

As Maloney’s veto message points out, the general principle behind permitting existing non-conforming uses and structures – like the Shell and Thornton’s signs – to remain after ordinances are enacted or revised is the expectation that those newly-proscribed uses and structures will eventually come into compliance through the passage of time, wear & tear, and other such factors. Permitting new non-conforming uses and structures, therefore, not only makes a mockery of the new/revised ordinance but, also, effectively creates an “arms race of sign size and non-conforming use,” according to Maloney.

Exactly right, Mr. Mayor.

We have consistently argued that laws should either be enforced or eliminated. We also have consistently stated that City ordinances – especially zoning and sign codes – are not mere suggestions to be followed only if convenient, or if the wind is blowing a certain way. The ZBA members should know that. If they don’t, it’s up to the Council members to remind them of it rather than jump on the runaway ZBA bandwagon as it leaves the reservation.

Maloney’s first veto is a big step in defining the new mayor’s philosophy of City government now that he has a mayoralty of his own rather than being the good and faithful custodian of the last two years of “Mayor Dave’s” term. Fortunately for Park Ridge taxpayers, his use of the mayoral veto to try to correct a perceived wrong is right out of the “Mayor Dave” H.I.T.A. playbook.

On that basis alone this glass is more than half-full.

Now let’s see if the Council can fill up the rest of it by sustaining Maloney’s veto on November 6.

To read or post comments, click on title.

8 comments so far

For the first time in a 9+ year stint as a ZBA member I went before the City Council to ask them to consider NOT accepting the recomendation forwarded from zba, something that I gave a great deal of thought to. It just seemed that in this isolated case, the request, in its presentation, didn’t quite meet the standards required to gain approval. Something that was debated during deliberation prior to voting. By majority, my concerns were over ruled. None the less, I still didn’t feel that the standards were met or put forward to Council in a clear and responsible manor. To be clear, 1 of the 3 standards is….

“Strict application of the zoning ordinance will result in undue hardship”. The 2nd of 3 is

“The plight of the owner is due to unique circumstance”.

The bulk of discussion of those 2 standards was how the other 2 like businesses had larger “legal non conforming signs” so allow us to have a bigger sign. Nowhere in the standards is there a provision that suggests that something that is legally non conforming, that would one day be required to conform, could or should be considered as a standard to be used as undue hardship or unique circumstance, to create a new legal non conformity (at more than twice the allowable size) only to have that used as the next hardship and unique circumstance. Is your head spinning yet? In a nutshell the Mayor did good. This variance did not pass the smell test, and our boards and commissions, along with city council should be held to a standand that is worthy of the position. We volunteer, we don’t legislate. It isn’t our job to decide whether or not we like or don’t like a particular provision of the zoning ordinace, or use it only as a suggestion. We are supposed to be there to apply and uphold those provisions. I look forward to doing a better job moving forward.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Mayor did good, and you did good.

Compliments to the mayor and to Ms. Langan for doing something that seems so obvious I can’t understand what the ZBA missed and why a majority of the Council went along with it.

After years of mayors who either controlled their councils or acted like potted plants, Mayor Schmidt (RIP) and Mayor Maloney are breaths of fresh air. Finally Park Ridge is moving into the 21st Century.

Don’t see what you mean my moving into the 21st Century.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We assume you are addressing Anonymous 2017/10/25 at 7:05 am.

I shudder to think of the thought process(es) that led to the decisions by both the ZBA and a City Council majority to grant this variance, other than: “Those other stations have whopper signs so why shouldn’t BP?” (ZBA), and “ZBA approved it, so it must be okay.” (Council)

Our elected and appointed officials need to do better than this.

Appreciate the support. It’s worth putting out there, that the most requests (to the city) and talked about issues are quite frankly, the ones the ordinance regulates heavily. Bulk (commonly known as density) and signs. They are regulated this way because they are the top 2 sure fire ways to “alter the character” of a neighborhood and the overall community. In short, if you want to change the look of the town, play fast and loose with sign regulations.

…..and oh goody, it looks like we’ll have the Mr. K’S property to talk about again. Scheduled to go before P&Z Nov. 7th.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Is it for the same multi-family housing perversion of the current “business”-zoned property that will add more students to D-64 and D-207 while generating only a fraction of the cost of those kids in RE taxes…which, in Crook County, are assessed at a lower rate than are the RE taxes for businesses?

The look and character of this town has been changing for years as the city’s buildng codes allow for the construction of “McMansions” with enormous footprints that don’t blend in with the other houses in the area and that contribute to the flooding issues plaguing some neighborhoods.



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