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Supporters push for hoop house inclusion on Elmhurst committee agenda

ELMHURST – About two dozen supporters of an Elmhurst family's hoop house asked Jan. 22 that the Elmhurst Development, Planning and Zoning Committee add the issue to its agenda.

Their actions followed DuPage County Judge Paul Fullerton's dismissal in December 2017 of a lawsuit the Virgil family filed after it was forced to take down its hoop house because Elmhurst found the structure to be in violation of city code.

The Virgil family was ordered by the city in early 2017 to take down the hoop house in its backyard in the 500 block of Fairview Avenue or face fines. The structure, which is a temporary gardening structure used to extend the growing season into winter, was found to be in violation of city code at a hearing Jan. 24, 2017, in front of an administrative judge. The hoop house was taken down Feb. 24.

The committee previously had announced at an August 2017 meeting that it would delay discussing hoop houses until the conclusion of the lawsuit against the city.

Several of the family's supporters spoke during public comment Jan. 22.

"As an elected official, even if we don't support something, it is our job to put an item on the agenda whether we support it or not for discussion," DuPage County Board member Liz Chaplin said. "And if we don't put those items on the agenda for discussion, we are denying the Virgil family due process, and we're denying them the democratic principles that this country was founded on."

Anne Quigley, an Elmhurst business owner, said she believed allowing hoop houses would be an economic gain for Elmhurst.

"When people are living more sustainability, they also have more money in their pockets to spend, and they're the kind of people who are conscientious and conscious consumers that keep their money local," Quigley said. "They're not the kind of people who are going to go running off to Oak Brook to spend more money."

Committee Chairman Michael Honquest made an exception to the city committee policy of not responding to public comments during the meeting since so many people attended the meeting.

"As our government works, if the judiciary comes up with a decision, it's good for the legislature – in this case, us – to see what that decision is. That case just ended," Honquest said.

He added there are three other "very public" issues that are being determined currently.

"If we put all these cases [on the agenda] and everyone comes here from three different cases, we're here until midnight," he said.

Honquest said it would go back on the agenda, but he is unsure when that would be.

Alderwoman Noel Talluto said the committee process doesn't necessarily allow for a formal testimony process and recommended that people of both viewpoints on the issue submit documentation in writing before the time of the meeting so that committee members could review it and consider it versus reacting immediately to public comments.

Honquest said the committee might put the issue through a Zoning and Planning Commission process.

Nicole Virgil said after the meeting she would encourage supporters to make another stand during public comment if the issue is not added to the agenda by early March.

"We're just not going to quit," Virgil said.

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