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Main Street Group Says They May Sue City for Zoning Change

St. Charles City Council approved a change to the zoning laws that would allow banquet centers in a portion of the Historic Commercial District on South Main Street. Some residents on Main Street say this is illegal spot zoning.

The on Tuesday approved a change to the city's zoning codes which will allow banquet centers as a conditional use in a portion of South Main Street in historic St. Charles.

The change was drafted after Sheri Steffans, owner of , approached the city about building a chapel in a 150-year-old building on South Main Street, and a banquet facility across the street.

However, banquet centers were not an approved use for the Historic Commercial District under city zoning codes at the time. 

The city drafted a zoning change which would allow the banquet centers in a small portion of South Main Street between Boone's Lick Road and Ameristar Blvd. The City Council unanimously approved the two zoning changes. Council President Laurie Feldman, Ward 3, and Mike Weller, Ward-5, were absent.

Steffans will still have to apply for a conditional use permit for her facility which would be subject to approval from the City Counil and would have restrictions on facility hours, size and parking.

Group of Residents Contends this is Spot Zoning

A group of business owners and residents on South Main Street say that banquet facilities or "party centers" are not an appropriate type of business for the area and will change the character of the neighborhood.

The group, which includes members of the South Main Preservation District, has said the change in zoning is an example of "spot zoning" and is considering filing a lawsuit against the city.

Bob Zick, an attorney representing the group, said cities should not adopt zoning changes that place an incompatible type of business or use in an area.

"When you pave the way to allow for a later application for a conditional use permit for a use that’s incompatible with the historic zoning... the courts have held that is just as improper as the one-step zoning," he said at the May 1 council meeting. 

Director of Community Development Bruce Evans said this is not an example of spot zoning.

Karen Satterfield, who has lived on Main Street for 40 years, said it's the mix of business owners and residents who live and work on South Main that makes the street work. She said a banquet or "party center" in the historic commercial district would disrupt the careful mix. 

"I don't think most people realize the effects of a party atmosphere in the neighborhood," she said. "You might be amazed at the screaming drunk destructive behavior that we hear."

Council Members Say Banquet Centers Would Have Restrictions

Council Vice President Bridget Ohmes, Ward 10, said even with the zoning change, a proposed banquet center would have to go through the city's community development department which would write conditions and restrictions for the business.

"It's not like a free-for-all," Ohmes said. "We are thinking about the residents and business owners."

Ohmes pointed out that is a bar located in the South Main Preservation District which brings in people from outside of St. Charles. "I think we can work it out," she said.

Councilman Mike Klinghammer, Ward-8, said this is not the first time a business owner on South Main Street has considered putting in a banquet center in the area. He said he doesn't think the banquet centers will have the impact that local business owners fear.

Gary Haddox, who lives on Main Street, said he doesn't have confidence in the city's enforcement of any conditions that would be imposed with a conditional use permit.

"No confidence whatsoever," he said.

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