ELMHURST – A land use case that began in 2016 essentially concluded in the Elmhurst City Council's 12-2 passing of a report at its March 19 meeting.
At the next City Council meeting, if the ordinance gets a green light – as most do, after their corresponding reports pass – Elmhurst Extended Care Center at 200 E. Lake St. will be free to commence its expansion onto East Fremont Avenue properties.
Public comment, predominately consisting of nearby residents, lasted 40 minutes and included a demonstration, as neighbors stood together in the Elmhurst City Hall's chambers and attempted to convince aldermen of their position on the nursing home facility's request that the city grant it a conditional use permit for the expansion. Greg Pellico, who was the last to speak, also talked of bringing a lawsuit against the city.
But the vast majority of the aldermen decided the city should allow the facility to proceed with its plans.
The Zoning and Planning Commission, which presents findings and recommendations on cases to the city's Development, Planning and Zoning Committee, had tendered a report on Jan. 22 with a split 4-4 vote recommending denial of the application.
However, alderwoman Noel Talluto, who sits on the committee, said she saw in the transcripts of the commission meetings that there was "the lack of consensus" at each standard level.
She said it is "unusual" for the committee to have "a different point of view" than the commission, but the application is not a "clear-cut" case.
"In a unique circumstance like this, it's the duty of all of us to make a judgment based on the facts of the case and based on our interpretation of the laws and the ordinances and understand that just because a 4-to-4 technically becomes a vote against, that we need to weigh all of the factors and understand that there wasn't consensus even at the lower level at each standard," Talluto said.
The applicant also had responded to some 13 requests the neighbors made that were reviewed at a March 12 committee meeting.
The applicant agreed to many of the requests, including the request to complete snow removal in case of such weather and to refrain from constructing wooden fencing on the Fremont Avenue portion of the property, according to the March 15 committee report submitted to the City Council.
Alderman Michael Bram and alderwoman Dannee Polomsky voted against the facility's request.
Neighbors and Elmhurst Extended Care Center supporters alike left the council chambers after the vote.
Love Dave, administrator and owner of the care center, said in the hallway the center looks forward to working with the city and neighbors, and they are excited for the nursing home residents to have more spacious accommodations.
"It's so crowded for them," he said, noting residents are currently living three or four to a room at the facility.
John "Jay" McNichols, a Fremont Avenue resident, said in his comments after the vote that he thinks the city of Elmhurst "caved" facing the concept of a lawsuit that could be brought by the center.
"The city approved this project because they feared a federal lawsuit, which would come with not only the penalties that go with that, but also the public embarrassment that would come with losing a case," McNichols said.
He added the neighbors may or may not be able to bring together a lawsuit against the city because of the expense involved and the timing.
"We certainly have standing, but it would be enormously expensive, and in all likelihood, it wouldn't actually slow down the building process once this is codified in an ordinance. ... We've been fighting this for a year and a half, arguing evidence and arguing standards," McNichols said. "It didn't matter tonight, even though we felt like the evidence was really on our side."