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Howard commission backs residences in business districts as conditional use

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

HOWARD – The village’s Plan Commission gave its unanimous support Monday, May 20, to revising the village code to allow residences as a conditional use in business districts zoned B-1 or B-2.

Commission members held a public hearing on the issue after having discussed at their previous meetings the past two months how to deal with homes located in areas of the village now zoned for business use.

Howard Community Development Director Dave Wiese initially brought the matter before the commission in March.

It was in response to homeowners in business districts having difficulty selling single-family houses because of lending institutions not wanting to finance the purchase of the structures, which under the current village code couldn’t be rebuilt.

After the commission indicated last month it favored resolving the matter by allowing homes in business districts as a conditional use, Wiese said he spoke with the village administrator and village attorney, who advised him not to single out specific locations zoned B-1 or B-2 where that type of use would or wouldn’t be allowed.

“If you start identifying areas, you’re not going to identify all of them,” Weise said. “If you start trying to look at specific additions, in this particular instance it’s going to be somewhat difficult, so their recommendation was to keep it a little bit more generic and just list them as conditional uses in those districts.”

Homes in those districts are difficult to sell when no one will finance or insure their sale, because if they burned down, they now couldn’t be rebuilt.

Wiese said those homes will turn into “deteriorating properties.”

“You’ve got to wait until the thing basically falls apart before you throw out a letter of condemnation and tear the darn thing down,” he said.

Wiese said designating the conditional use as residential, rather than a single-family home, in a B-1 or B-2 district would allow a home to be used for both residential and business use.

Village President Burt McIntyre said “residential” would allow more flexibility in issuing the permits then for a “single-family home.”

Susan Tomchek speaks Monday, May 20, before the Howard Plan Commission in favor of changing the village code to allow homes in business districts as a conditional use.

One of those property owners, Susan Tomchek, spoke before the commission about wanting to sell to an interested party.

“We have a definite offer on one of the properties,” Tomchek said. “These people want this house. It’s a small family. They want this house so bad. The bank is ready to give them the money. We’re ready to give them the keys, but the bank won’t give them the keys until this is changed. I ask that you help us get out from this so we can go to Florida.”

Wiese said the commission’s recommendation is being forward to the village board for final approval as ordinance change at its June 10 meeting.

In addition to the amendment affecting existing homes, Wiese said the change would also apply to building new homes in a B-1 or B-2 district.

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