DeKalb County Community Gardens gets initial nod from DeKalb panel to build CHEF Center

Dan Kenney of DCCG petitions city to approve plan for 8 acres of land in DeKalb for new facility

DeKalb County Community Gardens Founder Dan Kenney, along with executive director Heather Edwards, discuss their proposal during the informational meeting Thursday, May 18, 2023, at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb. The meeting centered on the the proposed plans for the vacant lot on the corner of Blackhawk Road and Hillcrest Drive in DeKalb.

DeKALB – A rezoning request put forth by DeKalb County Community Gardens to allow the organization to proceed with its long-awaited Community Health Education and Food (CHEF) Center received an initial nod this week from a DeKalb panel.

Members of the DeKalb Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-0 in favor of the plan, but do not have the final say on the matter. Vice Chairman Bill McMahon was absent. The DeKalb City Council gave the petitioner’s request consideration at Monday’s meeting.

The petitioner, Dan Kenney, founder of DeKalb County Community Gardens, is seeking rezoning from light commercial district to planned development commercial district for an 8-acre property located along the east side of North Annie Glidden Road, south of Twombly Road and north of Ridge Drive.

The proposed site, once developed, will establish a space for a CHEF Center, community building, greenhouses and accessory uses, according to city documents. The property in question has no existing structures and is used for crop production.

City Planner Dan Olson said city staff is asking that the panel forward the petitioner’s request to the City Council with a positive recommendation.

“Looking at standards for the rezoning, they meet all the requirements,” Olson said.

City staff said several residents and community organizations had submitted feedback leaning in favor of the petitioner’s rezoning petition.

Chairman Max Maxwell heaped praise on project leaders for finding a new spot for their building and for what they intend to accomplish.

“I think this is a wonderful project for the community at large,” Maxwell said.

A prior plan to develop the CHEF Center using roughly 4.87 acres of land at the northwest corner of Blackhawk Road and West Hillcrest Drive involved months of community input at public meetings. After months of talking with the city and Northern Illinois University to develop a combined a proposal, however, DeKalb County Community Gardens withdrew its interest in developing the site.

With the applicant’s petition comes two requests for waivers: one for reducing the buffer area between a non-residential use and an adjacent residential area, and another for removing the screening requirements to the adjacent residential areas.

The city is requiring that a development plan submittal be reviewed by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council before any building permit is issued, city documents show.

The petitioner hopes the site will be operational by Dec. 31, 2025, city documents show.

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