At the Village Board’s regular meeting held on March 24, 2014 a zoning ordinance was passed to designate limited areas within the Village’s B-4 Business Zoning District where several types of firearms related uses could potentially locate. The final decision to pass the ordinance can be described as a compromise of sorts between emerging business interests and those of a portion of the community, while at the same time strengthening the Village’s ability to properly regulate such uses in the future.
A public hearing notice was published in the February 14, 2014 edition of the Suburban Life newspaper soliciting public comments on the zoning application. The public hearing was held before the Village Plan Commission on March 5, 2014 on a proposal to change the Village zoning ordinance to allow retail firearm sales and shooting ranges upon properties within the B-4 District only. After deliberation, the members of the Plan Commission recommended that retail firearm sales be listed as a permitted use in the B-4 District while shooting ranges be listed as special uses, which would require a separate zoning process and public hearing for each individual applicant. The Plan Commission’s recommendation was received by the Village Board on March 10, 2014 and further considered during the last meeting on March 24th.
Since the state recently approved a concealed carry law, firearm type uses are emerging as an expanding business market. Recently, the Village has received inquiries from firearms related businesses desiring to locate in Willowbrook. However, since there were no zoning provisions in place to permit those uses, they were turned away.
Presuming the Village will likely continue to receive future firearms use requests, given this expanding business market, the issue is multi-faceted; First, since the Village does not levy a conventional property tax, a pro-business economic development approach is in place. In addition, the Village Attorney has cautioned that an outright prohibition on firearm uses may not survive a zoning challenge if a case was ever brought against the Village in the future. Therefore, after further consideration, the Village Board expressed a desire to be both proactive in its approach by allowing some accommodation for potential business opportunities while at the same time protecting the Village’s ability to regulate these types of uses. Although there was concern in allowing areas where these uses could locate, there was greater concern that if specific areas (i.e., the B-4 Business Zoning District) were not identified, the Village could risk losing all ability to regulate the location of these uses.
There are twelve (12) properties within the Village’s B-4 Business Zoning District, eleven (11) of which already have businesses operating on them, such as hotels, auto dealerships and restaurants. These properties are located at the south end of Willowbrook, east of Route 83, between 73rd Court and 79th Street.
During the Board’s consideration of the amendatory ordinance on March 24th, the mayor and Board decided to further restrict the number of properties upon which a firearms related business could locate to only six (6) of the twelve (12) B-4 properties. These six (6) properties do not abut Route 83 or I-55, and are located in close proximity to the Village police station within the business/industrial park. As a result, it is believed that no negative community impacts should result.
The Village elected and appointed officials consider the expressed opinions of the public during its deliberations on all zoning matters, including those that are sensitive community issues. The public comments received pertaining to this issue led to the decision to further restrict the number of properties in which these uses could locate.
The Village Board’s action in this matter represents the community’s best long-term interests. Although the ordinance does provide zoning for such uses to potentially operate upon six (6) individual properties, these properties are located away from both residential areas and commercial shopping centers, and five (5) of them already have established businesses upon them which may make it unlikely for them to convert to a firearms related use. In addition, the zoning amendment will strengthen the Village’s ability from a zoning perspective to continue to be able to regulate such uses in the future.