ELMHURST – With a 9-5 vote April 16, the Elmhurst City Council approved a report regarding Redeemer Lutheran Church's application for a conditional-use permit to reconfigure its parking lot and sell buildable lots.
One of those votes needed to come from Mayor Steve Morley because only seven, or half of the 14 elected aldermen, voted in favor of the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee report.
Alderman Kevin York abstained from voting, but his abstention was counted as an aye after Morley's vote acted as the deciding factor, according to Elmhurst's municipal code.
York is a congregant of Redeemer Lutheran Church and serves as treasurer of the church, though he is not on the church council, which is the voting entity of the church.
Aldermen Michael Honquest, Noel Talluto, Bob Dunn, Mark Mulliner, Jim Kennedy, Norman Leader and Mark Sabatino voted in favor of the report. Alderman Mike Brennan was absent from the April 16 meeting.
The church at 345 S. Kenilworth Ave. in Elmhurst would like to sell land plots it currently has for parking near its Redeemer Center to be able to pay for facility improvements, such as making the church more handicap accessible.
Dunn said what he sees as a major issue – the parking and its location – has had "ample capacity planning."
The proposal includes establishing an agreement to use parking at City View Church, 343 S. York St., Elmhurst. There also is a proposal for Redeemer Lutheran Church to implement land banking.
Two areas of the church's property would be set aside as green spaces where additional parking could be placed to accommodate more parking spots if the area needs it. The applicant, an alderman, neighbors or city staff can recommend the spaces be constructed, according to the committee report.
"I think this parking solution is creative," Dunn said.
Aldermen Michael Bram, Tina Park, Scott Levin, Marti Deuter and Dannee Polomsky voted against it.
Levin spoke for several minutes, expressing concerns about the "extensive" amount and "complexity" of the zoning relief requested and commenting on each of the requests.
"We have excessive, extreme variances being requested. ... When I saw the relief being requested and saw how much it was, I could not believe that it went out at staff level without a recommendation that this is just too excessive," Levin said.
He added although he is sorry about the church's financial status, that should not determine zoning changes, and zoning needs to take into consideration the rights of the neighbors as well.
"Financial issues are not the basis for zoning relief," Levin said.
When Redeemer Lutheran Church's application comes back to the City Council for final approval, there will be five separate ordinances to approve: an amended conditional use permit, three variations and the subdivision of the property to allow for the housing parcels that would be sold, Morley said.
Because part of the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee's recommendation contradicted the Zoning and Planning Commission's finding, a supermajority of 10 aldermen will be required to approve those items.
Before ordinance approval, the church needs to submit a landscaping plan incorporating neighborhood input that includes screening for the relocated parking lot and the proposed land-banked parking lots. The church aslo needs to have final engineering plans, including stormwater calculations for both the relocated parking lot and the proposed land-banked parking lots, approved before the ordinance approval.
The next City Council meeting will be May 7.