Grundy County board approves rezoning despite objections

Neighbors fear for affects depsite owner's reassurances

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MORRIS – Despite objections from neighbors, property owned by Chris and Stacey Hutchcraft in rural Morris has been rezoned by the Grundy County Board. The approval allows Hutchcraft to construct an additional house on his property.

The Grundy County Board voted 10 to 2, with Don Neushwander Jr. and Harold Vota voting no, at Tuesday’s meeting to rezone the land from Agricultural to Agricultural-Residential. Neushwander and Vota did not immediately return calls Wednesday seeking comment on why they voted against it.

The Hutchcrafts own 30 acres in rural Morris on Conley Road, which they claim is not farmable land and therefore should be zoned A-R.

“The LESA [Land Evaluation and Site Assessment] score of the land is 154 out of 300. It is not able to provide for family. I grow about $100 worth of hay, which doesn’t even cover the taxes,” Hutchcraft said during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Changing the zoning to A-R will allow the owners to potentially build up to three homes, each on a 3.33 acre lot. However Hutchcraft said he intends to build only one home for his parents when they retire.

Hutchcraft does not live on the property.

“I want to make it very clear to the board and to my neighbors that I am not putting in a subdivision,” Hutchcraft said at the meeting. “I want to build one home for my parents.”

Ted Chally and Joe Conley, who each own property adjacent to Hutchcraft’s, asked board members to vote against the zoning change.

With the changes to the property that will be required because of flooding issues, neighbors are concerned standing water on it now will migrate to their property and what this would do to their septic systems.

“[Board member] Deb Warning said she was out here and it won’t affect my house because my house is built up on the ridge,” Conley said Wednesday. “But I have a beehive, a chicken coop, and my pond is all on the same level as his property.”

Conley said another concern is if Hutchcraft begins excavating and making the land suitable to build, and then vacates the property, leaving neighbors with an eyesore or a health hazard from standing water that could breed mosquitoes.

Hutchcraft said Wednesday he already has fill needed to build up the area, and has no intention of excavating the property any lower or digging for a basement, so the concerns are unfounded.

The property previously went through the county zoning board and to the full Grundy County Board in 2006 when a previous owner, Bob Strange, tried to rezone the property to A-R to build eight homes.

At that time, eight neighbors filed objections and the zoning was not passed before Strange sold the property. Matt Mueller, Hutchcraft’s attorney, said his client was seeking the rezoning before spending the money necessary to hire experts to see if the land is buildable.

“He’s asking permission to spend money,” Mueller said. “If there are water issues, they have to be resolved by experts and engineers. If we spend the money and you say no, then it was money wasted. This is just the first 10 meters of a 100 meter dash.”

Mueller said he and his client are happy with the board’s decision and feel it was the legal decision based on the county’s definitions for the zoning, which state they only need to meet two criteria to be able to change the zoning. One of which is the land is not suitable for agriculture, and it won’t harm other agricultural land, which it will not, he said.

Conley’s biggest issue with the decision was a change in ordinance that has taken place since the last rezoning effort in 2006. Now, neighbors only have 30 days to file an objection, which would require a two-thirds majority vote to pass the rezoning.

In 2006 the neighbors were able to file almost two months later and won the right to the super majority vote.

Conley and Chally didn’t file their objection until 35 days, when they say they became aware of the need to file the objection, which already was five days too late.