Revised Will County zoning ordinance changes focus on energy efficiency, sustainable development practices
JOLIET – Will County’s unincorporated areas will be governed by an updated zoning ordinance that focuses on energy efficiency and sustainable development practices.
The revised ordinance was approved today (Thursday, July 19) during the monthly County Board meeting. It will go into effect Oct. 1.
Land Use Director Curt Paddock said, “The exciting news about this ordinance is that many of its provisions either remove impediments to sustainability and energy conservation practices or offer encouragement for adopting such innovative development methods.”
“The revised ordinance replaces one that was 35 years old,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh. “Our new user-friendly version has drawn from support from the Will County Farm Bureau, Three Rivers Manufacturers Association, the Will County Center for Economic Development and many others.”
David Dubois, Director of the Development Review Division of the Land Use Department, explained that under the new ordinance some uses that currently require zoning action can be authorized as permitted uses.
The change could result in a minimum $1,000 savings in application and process expenses for individuals, $3,000 for businesses, and eliminate a zoning process that can take up to six months.
The revised zoning ordinance addresses a variety of issues, from signs and parking lots to elder housing and solar collection systems.
- Elimination of special use permit requirement for Elder Housing Cottage Opportunities units. This will help families provide small, temporary residences for relatives in need of support, while maintaining independence, in a timely manner. The changes eliminate additional expenses and time associated with zoning when there is sometimes immediacy in need and there is already an expense to care for the relative;
- Expanding administrative adjustment (variance) authority. The changes reflect the authority granted by state law and will result in a greater number of minor matters being eligible for expedited processing as administrative adjustments;
- Expanding Planning and Zoning Commission authority. As a way to streamline the approval process, changes give the Planning and Zoning Commission authority to approve a much wider variety of variances, which could cut as much as 45 days from the typical process;
- Removing damage threshold for nonconforming structures that were involuntarily destroyed. Changes will allow nonconforming structures that are accidently destroyed, such as by unintentional fire or act of nature, to be re-established regardless of the cost to replace;
- Nonconforming lots. Certain changes decrease the regulatory burden on existing property owners who wish to make investments in their property. Changes could result in far fewer requests for variances and rezonings due to nonconforming lot status;
- LEED-ND. The ordinance incorporates Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Neighborhood Development, into the Planned Unit Development process. LEED-ND includes performance standards for certifying the planning and development of neighborhoods. The intent is to promote healthful, durable, affordable, and environmentally sound practices in building design and construction;
- Alternative energy sources. Changes authorize and expand opportunities for voluntary utilization of wind, solar and geothermal energy sources.
Work began on the ordinance revision in early 2011. The process has included two public workshops and two public hearings, as well as numerous Ordinance Review Subcommittee meetings before going to the board today.
The project was coordinated by the Land Use Department of the County Executive’s Office and the County Board’s Ordinance Review Subcommittee. Additional information may be found at www.renewingwillcounty.com. The website is available in a mobile format, as well.
“A modern zoning ordinance needs to have clarity, it must be comprehensive and it should provide valuable assistance for both the public and private sectors’ land use decision-makers,” Paddock said. “By these standards, the County Board’s adoption of this new zoning ordinance represents a great success.”