Smile Politely

This Sign Has Sharp Edges: Urbana’s Vanishing Zoning Ordinance Revealed

One morning, you wake up and discover that your planet is being demolished. It’s disheartening. You’d put so much work into your planet.

It’s the same feeling you get when you find out that your home is not in the quiet neighborhood that you’d imagined. Instead, it’s next to a parking lot of a multi-unit dwelling. Car doors slam at all hours. The ignition and revving of engines happens any time one of your 22 neighbors goes to work or class or veers home from the bars, possibly plowing through your trash cans, certainly not using inside voices as they stagger to their apartments.

Fortunately, in most cities, you’d have a voice in whether adjoining properties can be redeveloped from single-family houses to overflowing monstrosities of humanity.

But not in Urbana.

There were never any signs posted for the variances granted. All variances were granted with NO PUBLIC REVIEW or NOTICE by city staff. Gazette that is very far from a “Public Notice.” That is the BS of the “45 day protest rule” that ended the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) hearing before it even started and allowed us to present our side of the story. Just thinking about this still makes me mad, and I have to look out my window and see and hear this every day starting at 7 a.m.!

The city attorney claimed that staff followed the rules and to add insult to injury, when we saw “work” started in May we should have questioned the process. Then he also claimed we should have looked at the “Building Permits Granted” section of the

This is a quote from Rich Cahill. Cahill and Gail Taylor woke up one morning to discover that their world was being knocked down to make way for an expanded apartment complex for drunk west suburban children.

This is what he sees when he looks out the window at 7 a.m. It seems almost pastoral, like it might go well with a cup of coffee. But then the hammering and BEEP-BEEP-BEEPING starts.

Cahill sought a hearing with the Urbana Zoning Board of Appeals. Like most people, he wants his neighborhood to remain pretty much as it was when he sunk all that goddamned money into keeping Urbana beautiful.

To people who don’t live on his block, he’s a whining activist. But anyone becomes an activist when the bulldozers roll on to his patch. Like “B for Business,” one of the Chamber of Commerce variety advocates who posts frequently on IlliniPundit:

Trying to protest a zoning decision on a project that conforms to the zoning ordinance is definitely not pro-development. Even smaller projects that conform to zoning guidelines and that do not require demolition are subject to the harassment of the political activists. Richard Cahill is a significant player in that movement. I say this is an anti-development story because potential investors are realizing the hassles that await with even simple projects. If this was an isolated incident I would be inclined to agree with you, but I know you have been paying attention to the big picture. News-Gazette and the stories about groups/organizations that are using backdoor efforts to convert multi-unit properties into single family dwellings. I’m not going to hold my breath.

More importantly, I’m looking forward to the positives that come out of this. Hopefully we will stop seeing the negative publicity in the

The point is not that “B for Business” is wrong. The viewpoint the s/he promotes is important to consider in the overall scheme of things. The problem is that Cahill and Taylor had no say. They had no warning.

Their appeal to the Zoning Board was not denied. Rather, it wasn’t heard at all.

City Attorney Ron O’Neal said that even though they didn’t know about the zoning variance which allowed the redevelopment, even though they weren’t alerted to the zoning variance by the typical signage that’s posted for such variances, even though there actually was no signage in this case, they should have known to complain about it anyway.

The Fifth Amendment guarantees you Due Process before your property can be taken. “Due Process” means two things. There’s substantive due process (it is illegal to build that pile of crap under current zoning provisions) and procedural due process (you have the right to challenge the re-zoning which makes way for that pile of crap).

Rich Cahill got neither. You might think this unconstitutional.

Unlike last week’s City of Urbana stuff, I can actually link you directly to the page where the City gave Cahill and Taylor the proverbial “finger.” You might not want to wait for the pdf to load, so I’ve copied and pasted it into a Google document here. Some exciting parts are bolded. But it’s all pretty exciting, and congratulations to the city staffer who made everyone sound so catty.

Don’t worry, it’s public domain stuff. But if you didn’t have me to find it, paste it and publish it for you, don’t panic! You can find it yourself if you go to—> community development—> planning—> zoning board of appeals—> minutes—> October 15, 2008.

In other words, it’s in the basement, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory, with a sign on the door saying:

Urbana’s O’Neal is on public record as theorizing that Cahill and Taylor had their procedural due process. They just didn’t know it, see.

If you are not living on that block, that’s high comedy. And if you are living on that block, or anywhere in Urbana, it’s a reminder to pay extremely close attention to the posted signage on your neighbor’s plot. The sign has sharp edges. Sometimes they’re so sharp, you can’t even see them.

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