UNAPPOINTED ZONING OFFICER MAKES DECISION ANYWAY

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BY CALEB ALEXANDER

            No one objected and it did not seem to matter that a decision in New Baden about a sign variance was made by a man who was not appointed to the position responsible for making such decisions.

            There has been a lot on Mayor Taylor Zurliene’s plate since he took office on May 1. This includes appointing Village Board members to different committees and reappointing many village officials to their positions.

            All of that was taken care of early in the month with one exception. The reappointment of the zoning hearing officer apparently fell through the cracks and had been overlooked. It was easily resolved when the mayor announced and got support for reappointing Van Lear Eckert at the second Village Board meeting in May.

            What happened on May 11, however, before Mr. Eckert’s reappointment became official, was that he made a decision on a request by the Bank of Clinton County about a sign they want to put up at the corner of Route 162 and Route 160 in town.

            The bank people had to go through this process because their sign was 10 inches taller than what the code would allow. This means they had to get permission from the village for what is called a variance. That’s what Mr. Eckert approved. Then it went to the village board and was upheld at that level.

            On the agenda for that village board meeting, the zoning decision actually came up before the reappointment of Mr. Eckert was approved. He works out of a law office in Belleville and has been the New Baden zoning hearing officer for several years now.

            Jerry Green, Chief Building and Zoning Official for the village, was at the hearing conducted by Mr. Eckert. Jerry Green incidentally was one of those officials reappointed by the mayor already.  Green explained the code wording and also said it allows for an extra 12“ of sign height for every four feet the sign is behind the property line. So since the sign is going to be put in five feet back, the bank would be allowed a seven-foot-high sign anyway. But the variance still had to be approved. 

All in all, this reappointment of Mr. Eckert was somewhat of a logistical gaffe and was overlooked, the mayor said, with everything else that had been going on as he took over from Christy Picard. She decided not to run for reelection this year and Zurliene won out of three candidates.

Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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