Will Co. Board member Konicki would benefit from proposed zoning rule
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2012 3:50PM
Kathleen Konicki, Will County Board, District 7
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:23AM
Lame duck Will County Board member Kathleen Konicki is lobbying hard for a change in county zoning rules that would let her split her six-acre residential lot in two and sell half of it.
Her push for a zoning change that would benefit her personally has rankled some fellow county board members.
The Homer Township Republican only admitted she would take advantage of her own proposal after she was confronted by board Minority Leader Walter Adamic, D-Joliet, at an executive committee meeting.
“It kind of doesn’t pass the smell test,” Adamic told The Herald-News last week.
“I think when we govern, we should do it for the greater good,” he added. “We shouldn’t be doing it to benefit ourselves. That doesn’t sit well with me.”
Konicki said criticism of her for her effort is a “cheap shot.” She said Thursday that she would like to create a so-called “flag lot” on her land, but so would other county residents and she wants to make it easier for them, too.
The lots are called flag lots because they’re shaped like a flag, with a chunk of land — the “flag” — accessed by a skinny “pole” of a driveway. They violate county zoning ordinances because while they may have enough square footage for their zoning classification, they do not have the required width.
While the county’s land use committee, which Konicki sits on, has been discussing ways flag lots could be created under certain conditions, Konicki is going further. She is lobbying that residents in estate zoning areas, like the one she lives in, be able to create flag lots “by right,” without having to notify neighbors or pay special fees that normally add up to about $2,000 or more.
Konicki said flag lot owners shouldn’t have to “sue us in court to get their property rights.”
It’s a way to add a second home and get some value out of a piece of property, she said, confirming that she would like to create a flag lot on her property.
“I have a voice and I’m here now and I’m going to get it done,” Konicki said. “It’s one of my pet issues.”
County Board Chairman Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said Konicki should have been more up front at land use committee meetings about how she would benefit personally from the change.
“Elected officials have to give full disclosure if they have a potential conflict,” he said.
Attorney Kathleen Kallan, who serves as the county’s ethics adviser, said Konicki is not violating the county’s ethics ordinance.
“The ethics ordinance really is focused on improper gifts — a gift ban — and prohibited political activities,” Kallan said. What Konicki is doing “is not a gift or a prohibited political activity.”
Zoning officials typically don’t like flag lots because they create more curb cuts on roads, which increases the number of cars trying to get on and off roadways. They also can be problematic for emergency vehicle access and address identification. And they can create driveways that pass too closely to adjacent homes.
At Tuesday’s county board land use committee meeting, Konicki urged fellow committee members to fast-track her version of the zoning proposal so it could be voted on at the Thursday county board meeting.
But Moustis, who sat in on the meeting, asked for it to be delayed after board members learned that Green Garden, Crete and Manhattan townships would have the most lots eligible for the creation of flag lots.
Moustis said rural townships are in favor of keeping their larger lots and not having them subdivided. He said it makes sense for the county to slow the process down so township officials have more information on the proposed change.
“It’s not something, in my opinion, you can move quickly,” he said.
County staffers have drafted a revised zoning ordinance, and a public hearing on it was held Oct. 2, but that version is less extreme than Konicki’s. It includes the fees and the notification of neighbors. It better defines under what criteria flag lots could be created, according to the county’s land use officials.
It’s that version that will come back to the committee in November.
Konicki’s version seems to be heading nowhere.
Land use committee Vice Chairwoman Debbie Rozak, R-Wilmington, said she would never vote in favor of a zoning change that would allow flag lots to be created without neighbors being notified first so they could have input at a public hearing.
“I would not like it if all of a sudden I had a driveway next to my bedroom window with no notice,” she said.