Campton Hills’ new zoning ordinance comes under fire as ‘fatally flawed’

Shepro: ‘I am utterly baffled that the village didn’t do it the right way’

CAMPTON HILLS – Campton Hills’ newly minted zoning ordinance – as of Jan. 24 – has come under fire again, this time with a legal opinion from Kenneth Shepro, a local attorney known for his expertise in local government.

A zoning ordinance governs how property can be used in specific geographic areas, such as where residential uses are differentiated from commercial, business and industrial uses.

Shepro assisted the village in its original zoning ordinance, adopted after its incorporation in 2007. A former county board member, Shepro recently was appointed as the Kane County Board attorney.

Former village president Patsy Smith hired Shepro to review the village’s ordinance and give a legal opinion. She presented Shepro’s opinion at the March 20 Village Board meeting.

“Today, I provide you evidence … from attorney Ken Shepro, a recognized expert on municipal zoning,” Smith said. “Related to his opinion, the zoning ordinance adopted by the village is fatally flawed and … the proper procedures were not followed.”

In an email, Village Attorney Ryan Morton dismissed Smith’s and Shepro’s criticisms as politically motivated and without merit.

“The village is confident that its amended zoning ordinance was properly adopted after nine years of gathering public input through three different processes,” Morton’s email said. “The former village president and her personal attorney have once again teamed up to challenge the village’s correction of her prior mistakes. Their argument is devoid of comprehensive legal analysis or caselaw, and their narrow reading of the statute fails to recognize that the necessary procedures were followed to amend the zoning ordinance. This is the latest of numerous baseless statements from Ms. Smith in pursuit of her personal political agenda.”

According to Shepro’s five-page opinion, the village did not follow municipal code when it adopted a new ordinance in several instances, including that it followed state statute for a home rule municipality – which the village is not – and that it did not adopt a new zoning map as required by state law.

“The failure of the village to adopt a new zoning map renders the new zoning ordinance unenforceable,” Shepro’s opinion states. “Moreover, the ordinance is also fatally flawed because no zoning map was adopted to depict the properties assigned to the new zoning districts.”

Shepro Legal Opinion by John Sahly on Scribd

Shepro’s opinion asserts that the village also cited the wrong state law as the basis for its new zoning ordinance. But it got that wrong because officials did not follow procedure in that statue, either.

“Accordingly, the ordinance was not validly adopted and can be of no force or effect,” Shepro wrote.

Another legal problem is that when a municipality is adopting an entirely new zoning ordinance, it must appoint a zoning commission, but the village did not do that, Shepro’s memo stated.

According to the ordinance, the village has been working on a new zoning ordinance since 2013. Officials created a Steering Committee and Plan Commission/Zoning Board of Appeals, which held public workshops, forums and a public hearing on the new ordinance before it voted to recommend adoption.

The ordinance states it is “amending in its entirety” the zoning ordinance, but then refers repeatedly to it as a “new zoning ordinance.”

That is significant, Shepro said, because state law requires a municipality to appoint a zoning commission for a new zoning ordinance – not a plan commission or zoning board of appeals.

“Neither are a zoning commission,” Shepro said. “A zoning commission is a single, task-limited duration body that is appointed when it is enacting its initial zoning law or wishes to adopt a new zoning ordinance. They are appointed by the village president, confirmed by the village board. And once they make their report to the village board about the zoning ordinance they are considering, they cease to exist.”

Last year, some residents were concerned that the new zoning ordinance would restrict horse ownership by requiring special use permits and require licenses for chickens. At the time, Village President Michael Tyrrell said their concerns were “Much ado about nothing.”

In response to this latest criticism, Tyrrell would only say Shepro’s opinion is under review.

Shepro said he reviewed the village’s new zoning ordinance, state statues and meeting minutes in order to come to his conclusions.

Shepro said the village followed the section of state law relating to amending a zoning ordinance, not the one establishing an entirely new ordinance.

“I am utterly baffled that the village didn’t do it the right way,” Shepro said. “They could have very easily done it the right way. Not only did they fail to follow the statute, they didn’t even adopt a zoning map so people would know how the new ordinance applies to them. The map that exists is based on the 2014 zoning ordinance, which has been repealed in its entirety.”

The village website has a draft zoning map from August 2019.