A zoning ordinance issue drew a crowd of veterans’ rights supporters to the Joliet City Council’s May 3 meeting.
CL2 Corporation, which owns a residential property at 7-9 Cagwin St., sought a variation of use so that it could continue to operate an existing two-unit residence in the home. The city classifies two-unit residences as an R-3 use, but the home is located within a single-family R-2 zoning district.
The city council voted 6-2 to grant the variation to CL2, which offers subsidized housing to the property’s two tenants – one of whom is a veteran and the other a person with a disability.
A group of individuals who supported the variation of use request attended the meeting and used the issue to comment on the rights of veterans and others in need of subsidized housing.
Jacquelyn Allen, of Joliet, was one of the many in attendance growing with concern. Because her sister is a veteran, Allen said she recognized the significance of zoning ordinance issues like this one.
“(Catherine Beavers and CL2 Corporation is) allowing (veterans) to get subsidized home where a lot of them end up being homeless,” she said. “(CL2 Corporation) giving them subsidized housing is allowing them to stay.”
Councilwoman Jan Quillman said she was upset to see this one zoning ordinance violation being misinterpreted as a widespread problem affecting veterans throughout the city.
“I don’t know how this got to be a veterans issue,” she said. “We don’t hate veterans.”
Quillman, who serves as a backup flight nurse for Honor Flight Chicago, said issues pertaining to veterans hit close to home for her.
“My husband’s a Vietnam vet and to have all these veterans come up here tonight and say things [about] what we’re doing to veterans was just deplorable to me,” she said. “I don’t know why you would have to use veterans for this one home.”
Catherine Beavers, of CL2 Corporation, responded to the councilwoman’s comments by saying that those commenting were being misunderstood.
“The type of clients we have are veterans, and that’s why they were concerned,” she said. “They were not saying that, ‘nobody is trying to help veterans.’ But, they feel a house that one of the vets cannot live in is a problem.”
The property in question includes a two-bedroom unit on the first floor and a one-bedroom unit on the second floor. City ordinances state that a two-unit housing development must have three off-street parking spaces.
In 2006, a petition was denied to rezone the property as a two-unit home, leaving the development designated as a single-family unit.
CL2 Corporation purchased the in property in 2015 as a two-unit development. The owners said they did not receive clarification from the city regarding the house’s zoning classification at that time.
Officials became aware of the zoning violation that same year, when the city’s Neighborhood Services Division examined the property.
Quillman noted a few irregular components surrounding issues related to the zoning of the property on Cagwin Street. She said she is not sure how the house became available on the market as a single-family home without the owner's coming before the city to find out why it’s zoned as it is.
Beavers said this information was never made clear when looking to purchase the property.
“That’s the predicament,” she said. “We’re not really sure, to be honest with you. This has been kind of a fiasco.”
When the home was purchased in 2006, the owners went through the planning and zoning process. At that time, neighborhood services began learning of new information regarding past violations pertaining to the property that weren’t previously noted in their records.
Once the tenants were settled into the building in July 2015, they said a sticker was put on the home.
Beavers said it wasn’t until later when the owners reached out to a member of city staff that they learned issues had arisen in the planning department, where information regarding violations had not been recorded, creating a delay on the city’s part.
Beaver added that the owners needed to wait for much of the planning violations to be resolved before making improvements to the building.
To date, 90 percent of the work has been completed.
Quillman noted what happens when previous owners fail to comply with zoning ordinances and how it affects the CL2 Corporation.
“Some people they’re downzoned to single-family, but they don’t necessarily comply,” she said “They keep their illegal two-units and unfortunately, pass it on to the next person. However, if it’s for sale you have to get the proper zoning at the time of sale.”
In response to the record-keeping issue, Quillman added that it’s upsetting the way the city’s handling of zoning ordinance violation regarding Cagwin Street has panned out.
“I feel like this has kind of fallen through the cracks, unfortunately,” she said. “I know that St. Pats has really diligently tried to bring back the neighborhood with downzoning and not picking on just you particularly. It’s just something that went into place because there were so many multifamily homes there.”
A two-thirds vote became necessary in order to pass the measure, after the Zoning Board of Appeals failed to approve what would apply an additional condition to the owner’s lease, stating that only one vehicle can be parked on site.
Councilmen Pat Mudron and Michael Turk voted against the variance.