The city of Morris’ zoning uses have been updated and clarified after many months of work by city officials and the Planning Commission.
The commission met Wednesday and held a public hearing on its proposed zoning amendment to the Morris Municipal Code. The amendment updates the definitions of permitted and conditional permitted uses in the city.
The commission took this on after finishing its updates to the comprehensive plan, said Bill Cheshareck, building and zoning officer, Thursday.
After hearing public comment from about five individuals, the commission approved the amendment unanimously, with two commissioners absent. This will move on to the full city council meeting July 1, said Cheshareck.
The commission’s changes focused on what categories of businesses are considered permitted uses in certain zones and what are conditional permitted uses.
A permitted use means once a person has a location in the city and has been given a business license, they can open.
A conditional permitted use has to be applied for through the Planning Commission, a public hearing is held and the commission is allowed to put conditions on their approval — for example, stipulations on hours of operation.
Some business owners and downtown building owners spoke during the public hearing with concerns after receiving a letter from the city that their business use or a business use in their building could be changed from a permitted use to a conditional permitted use.
Cheshareck said existing businesses with a use that was previously permitted and is now conditionally permitted are grandfathered in and will be able to continue business as usual. They would be able to still expand or sell their business as well.
Building owner in downtown Morris, Valerie Hoffman-Hatcher, told the commission she was concerned the city may be getting too restrictive.
“With the suggested zoning changes, you are limiting business in Morris as the county did with the M & E tax. Perhaps, this is a comprehensive ploy to destroy the downtown we know,” wrote Hoffman-Hatcher in comments she read to the commission Wednesday.
Grundy County’s machinery and equipment tax is a unique taxing structure under which heavy industrial machinery and equipment are taxed as real property. Legislation had to be passed to allow rebates to companies in order for Grundy County to be competitive with other counties for industrial business.
“Throughout history, businesses and merchandise have changed. Today, several of our businesses are a mix of the old and the new,” said Hoffman-Hatcher. “Are you going to say ‘no’ to an art gallery or estate jewelry store, which would contain a mix of the ages?”
She is referring to where the amendment designates “second-hand” stores as conditionally permitted uses in the downtown business district. Previously, they were not categorized. Therefore, stores downtown that sell resale, refurbished or second-hand items were sent letters stating their use status may change.
But Cheshareck reiterated this is just information, their businesses are grandfathered in and won’t have to change.
Hoffman-Hatcher also questioned why some stores downtown that sell refurbished or second-hand items were sent the letter, but not others. This creates “an atmosphere of discrimination,” she said.
Cheshareck said the letters were not meant to be selective, but went to businesses that are clearly known for selling used goods.
The goal of the commission and the city is to spell out the more common uses of today’s business uses, he said.
Some of the amendments include making massage therapy businesses conditional permitted uses in both Business-2 and Business-3 zoning districts; second-hand stores permitted uses in Business-3, but conditional permitted use in Business-2.
Slaughter houses are now conditional permitted uses in Manufacturing-1 and Manufacturing-2.