Monticello considers zoning change for county building

The Monticello Planning Commission will meet tonight (Monday, July 15) to consider changes that would allow for a technology and data center at the Piatt County Office Building.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.

Government agencies and public offices are currently allowed at the building (the former Kirby Hospital), but zoning changes would be needed to rent space to a firm administering the local high-speed fiber optic data network currently being installed.

There is currently no technology/data center classification in the local zoning code, so amendments will be considered. The city is also proposing a Planned Unit Development for the State Street property, which would allow for a mix of uses for the county, but still enable the city to have some control over those uses.

The county is already slated to host the hub for the fiber optic network. However, to collect rent from office space is not allowed under current zoning.

The planned unit development would mean "extra flexibility that isn't traditionally found in a zoning ordinance," said Monticello Community Development Director Callie McFarland in a memo to Planning Commission members.

"In exchange for this flexibility, the municipality receives greater control over the development, including control over which uses may be established, how much open space is provided the development, including control over which uses may be established, how much open space is provided in the development, and the aesthetic appearance of the site," she added.

If the changes in the text of the zoning code are approved, two conditional use permits would also be required for the county to have more than one main use for the property.

The proposed development also would allow for medical offices at the building in case the county wants to host physical therapy or dental services for the adjoining nursing home. Since the property is in a residential neighborhood, McFarland said keeping some control over that development is vital.

"We are very sensitive to the neighborhood. ... Any changes would have to go through the same (zoning) process," she added.

In the planned unit development proposal, conditions would include: restricting overnight parking of tenant vehicles to the east side of the complex; allowing signs on the State Street entrance to remain; requiring noise dampening for generators; and requiring city approval before tenants can put up signs on the office building.

At a public meeting last month, most of those in attendance did not see a problem with allowing the county to host a technology hub for the fiber optic network. Area resident Mike Holtz did express concern the city was "overstepping its bounds" by competing with the private sector. He also pushed for a limit on how many private-company employees could be housed in the building.

Other neighbors, like Brenda Cummings, had no problem with the zoning change.

"I really don't think that having an IP hub using one room in a building that used to house a hospital with a lot more traffic in and out is going to make that much difference in the amount of traffic," she said at the public session.

If endorsed by the Planning Commission, the changes would go to the full city council for consideration July 22.

Meanwhile, zoning changes for the building that formerly housed county offices are also on the agenda for the 7 p.m. Planning Commission session on Monday.

Chris Dick purchased the former county annex recently to house his business, Illini Overhead Doors. He plans to rent a portion of the property to the Piatt County Animal Shelter, and possibly to another business. A conditional use permit is needed to allow three main uses in one structure.

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