Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is the Institutional Zoning which St. James Parish is requesting?

St. James is requesting numerous set back, height, landscaping and general building variances.  What are the requirements?  What is St James requesting?

The yellow marked sections are not in compliance with the code.  Red is what the St. James proposal provides.

The following is taken for the City Code on Zoning, available at:


D) Institutional district.

(1) Institutional (I) district.

A. Description and purpose. This district is intended to permit development that is institutional in nature (all government uses, all public and private schools, day care centers, religious institutions, institutional residential uses, parks, and similar uses). Density and intensity standards for this district are designed to ensure that the Institutional District shall serve as a designation that reflects and protects the community character of its surrounding area.

Rationale: This district is used to provide an appropriate mechanism for regulating institutional land uses to ensure that the development reflects and protects the community character of its surrounding area. This district is intended to be mapped either to provide clusters of institutional use (such as a campus) or to provide individual sites for institutional use (such as a neighborhood school or religious institution) within areas predominated by other zoning districts.

B. List of allowable principal land uses (per article 2).

1. Permitted by right.


Selective cutting;

Passive outdoor public recreation;

Active outdoor public recreation;

Public services and utilities;

Indoor institutional.

2. Permitted as special use.

Clear cutting;

Day care center (3+ children);

Outdoor institutional;

Institutional residential.

C. List of allowable accessory uses (per article 2).

1. Permitted by right.

Company cafeteria;

On-site parking lot;

Drainage structure;


Lawn care;

Home occupation;

Exterior communication devices.

2. Permitted as special use.

Wind energy systems.

D. List of allowable temporary uses (per article 2).

Outdoor assembly;

Contractor's project office;

Contractor's on-site equipment storage;

On-site real estate sales office;

Relocatable building.

E. Regulations applicable to all uses.

1. Landscaping regulations (see article 6).

2. Performance standards (see article 7).

3. Signage regulations (see article 10).

F. Regulations applicable to residential uses.

1. Residential density and intensity requirements:

A. Minimum zoning district area: 10,000 square feet.

B. Maximum gross density (MGD): 4.00 du/acre.

C. Minimum landscape surface ratio (LSR): 50 percent.

D. Maximum accessory structure size:

Detached garage: 288 square feet per dwelling unit.

Attached garage: 576 square feet per dwelling unit.

Accessory utility shed: 120 square feet.

2. Residential bulk requirements:

A. Minimum lot area: 10,000 square feet.

B. Minimum lot width: 80 feet.

C. Maximum gross density (MGD): Up to 50 du/acre per limits of the special use permit.

D. Minimum street frontage: 40 feet.

E. Minimum setbacks: Front or street side lot line to house: 30 feet.Front or street side lot line to attached garage: 30 feet.Side lot line to house or attached garage: ten feet.Total of both sides, lot lines to house/attached garage: 20 feet.Rear lot line to house or attached garage: 25 feet.Side lot line to accessory structure: Three feet from property line  , five feet from alley.Rear lot line to accessory structure: Three feet from property line, five feet from alley.Required bufferyard: None on Church Street side  See § 150.607 along zoning district boundary.Minimum paved surface setback: Three feet from side or rear; 10 feet from street; (driveways established prior to adoption date of this ordinance are exempted).

F. Minimum dwelling unit separation: 20 feet.

G. Maximum height of dwelling unit: 35 feet, greater with a special use permit. St. J--70

H. Maximum height of accessory structure: 20 feet.

I. Minimum number of off-street parking spaces required on the lot: See parking lot requirements per specific land use in § 150.204.

J. Minimum dwelling size: 1200 square feet, measuring no less than 24 feet by 40 feet.

G. Regulations applicable to nonresidential uses.

1. Nonresidential intensity requirements:

A. Maximum number of floors (F): Two or greater with special use approval granted per the requirements of § 150.904.

B. Minimum landscape surface ratio (LSR): 50 percent.

C. Maximum floor area ratio (FAR): 0.20.

D. Minimum lot area (MLA): 10,000 square feet.

E. Maximum building size (MBS): na.

2. Nonresidential bulk requirements:

A. Minimum lot area: 10,000 sq. ft.

B. Minimum lot width: 80 feet; minimum street frontage: 40 feet.

C. Minimum setbacks:

Building to front or street side lot line: 30 feet. Zero on Church Street

Building to residential side lot line: Ten feet.

Building to residential rear lot line: 25 feet.

Building to nonresidential side lot line: Ten feet.

Building to nonresidential rear lot line: 25 feet.

Side lot line to accessory structure: Three feet from property line, five feet from alley.

Rear lot line to accessory structure: Three feet from property line, five feet from alley.

Required bufferyard: See § 150.607 along zoning district boundary.

Minimum paved surface setback: five feet from side or rear; five feet from street; (driveways established prior to adoption date of this ordinance are exempted).

D. Minimum building separation: 20 feet.

E. Maximum building height: 35 feet, greater with special use permit.

F. Minimum number of off-street parking spaces required on the lot: See parking lot requirements per specific land use in § 150.204.

(E) Planned development districts.

(1) Planned development (PD) district.

A. Description and purpose. This district is intended to provide more incentives for redevelopment in areas of the community, which are experiencing a lack of reinvestment or undeveloped areas of the community, which require flexible zoning treatment because of factors that are specific to the site. This district is designed to forward both aesthetic and economic objectives of the City by controlling the site design and the land use, appearance, density, or intensity of development within the district in a manner consistent with sound land use, urban design, and economic revitalization principles. The application of these standards will ensure long-term progress and broad participation toward these principles. Refer to § 150.907 for the procedures applicable to proposal review in this standard zoning district.

B. Development standards. Development standards are flexible within this zoning district. Refer to §§ 150.907(B) for the range of development standards potentially available in this zoning district.

(Ord. of 3-6-06; Ord. No. 848G, § 1, 9-5-06; Ord. No. 880G, § 1, 1-2-07; Ord. No. 923G, § 1, 10-1-07; Ord. No. 24H, § 1, 9-8-09; Ord. No. 76H, § 1, 10-4-10)



Sec150.607:     150.607. Landscaping requirements for bufferyards.

(A) Purpose. This section provides the landscaping and width requirements for bufferyards on lots developed after the effective date of this chapter. A bufferyard is a combination of distance and a visual buffer or barrier. It includes an area, together with the combination of plantings, berms, and fencing that is required to eliminate or reduce existing or potential nuisances. These nuisances can often occur between adjacent zoning districts. Such nuisances are dirt, litter, noise, glare of lights, signs, and incompatible land uses, buildings or parking areas.

Rationale: One of zoning's most important functions is the separation of land uses into districts that have similar character and contain compatible uses. The location of districts is supposed to provide protection, but in the city, this is not the case since zoning districts permitting uses as diverse as single-family residential and industrial uses were located next to one another long before the effective date of this chapter. Bufferyards will operate to minimize the negative impact of any future use on neighboring uses.

(B) Required locations for bufferyards. Bufferyards shall be located along (and within) the outer perimeter of a lot wherever two different zoning districts abut one another. Bufferyards shall not be required in front yards. Question:  Is a buffer zone required between new St. James Church and the house on Church Street?

(C) Determination of required bufferyard.

(1) Identification of required level of opacity. Opacity is a quantitatively-derived measure which indicates the degree to which a particular bufferyard screens the adjoining property. The required level of opacity indicated by table 150.607(C)(2)A. is directly related to the degree to which the potential character of development differs between different zoning districts. The required level of opacity is determined by the value given in the cell of the table at which the column heading along the top row of the table (representing the subject property's zoning district) intersects with the row heading along the left hand side of the table (representing the adjacent property's zoning district). The value listed is the required level of opacity for the bufferyard on the subject property.

(2) Identification of detailed bufferyard requirements.

A. If a proposed use adjoins a parcel for which a bufferyard is required by the presence of a zoning district boundary, that use shall provide a bufferyard with the level of the opacity indicated in table 150.607(C)(2)A.

B. For each level of opacity, a wide variety of width, landscaping point, berm, and structure combinations are possible. The requirements listed in table 150.607(C)(2)B. pertain to the number of landscaping points, the minimum bufferyard width, and the type of berm or fencing required within every 100 feet of required bufferyard. A variety of landscaping point options are available and may be mixed within distinct portions of the same bufferyard.


Click here

Table 150.607(C)(2)A. Required Bufferyard Opacity Values


Did St. James really take its architect's advise on planning a new church?

This posting is also available at: More postings regarding St. James are available at that site.

Quite obviously it is difficult (if not impossible) to know what the “renowned Classical architect”, Duncan G. Stroik, told the parish officials on how to plan for its new church.  However Mr. Stroik has written extensively on church architecture and in this 2002 article (listed on his website), Mr. Stroiks advises priests on the many phases of the process. Did St. James follow this advise?


See Page 1:  As expected, Column 2 :  “The most important decision you will make is on the choice of the architect”.

Page 2: Column 2  “an architect’s fee can run anywhere from eight to 14 percent of the construction cost of the church”

Page 3:   Columns 2 & 3  “I suggest that priest try to involve the parish in the project early on”

“Consider creative ways for your parish to have imput on the project early on, whether this is with public discussion, filling out questionnaires or more casual discussion amongst the community.  One priest I know spent a couple of years holding lectures, prayer services and putting inserts in the bulletin to prepare the faithful for their new church.”

Listen to all reasonable requests whether they are calling for a specific heating system, architectural style, flooring material or a shrine to a particular saint.

Page 4:  1st Paragraph, Column 3 “ …it is in-style to build churches that are too large.” ….”pastors are being encouraged by their bishops to build parishes of 1,000 seats or more.  I ask if they are aware that this is larger than most of the seating capacity of our Cathedrals in this country. “

“I ask pastors to try to determine what is the smallest seating capacity they could live with so they can use the limited budget to its best ability”

Page 5:  Column 2 “One of the nicest American traditions is the ethnic parish with the parish hall in the basement which can even be finished later.”


The article is available on the internet at:  The article is from the July 2002, Our Sunday Visitor’s The Priest.

Click on the photocopy to enlarge:

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Sneak Preview: Letter to Editor of BCJ on the new St. James Church


Dear Boone County Journal Editor 6/27/2011

What is the true reason for destroying the historic St James Catholic church in Belvidere? Sure, the Catholic community has grown in Belvidere and Boone County. St James Church is full to capacity on occasion. Parking and traffic patterns are difficult, especially for local residence. Let’s examine another local community and how they dealt with growth. Belvidere has roughly 26,400 residences, Freeport has roughly 25,000. Freeport now has three Catholic churches: St Joseph, St Mary, and St Thomas Aquinas. The St Joseph church just celebrated 150 years and is a similar design to Belvidere’s St James church. To accommodate growth Freeport built the more modern St Thomas Aquinas church rather than tear down their history.

St James received a donation of 22 acres to build a new church on the intersection of Squaw Prairie and Town Hall. This generous offer yielded a perfect opportunity to build a 2nd Catholic Church in Boone County, preserve the historic existing church and the surrounding community, and provide for future growth flexibility. Yet the current plan is to sell the 22 acre property, tear down the125 year existing church for a parking lot, and build a massive 70 ft tall structure on a lot adjacent to the school that is just too small to accommodate it. The new structure will be 30 feet from the school on one side, and just 4 inches from the sidewalk on the other. The height, setbacks, and parking are significant variance issues that the Zoning and Planning Commission have already given an approval recommendation. The Belvidere City Council has scheduled a meeting on July 5th for a potential final vote and the meeting is open to the public. If approved, and the massive structure is built on the proposed lot, traffic patterns and parking will be a nightmare due to a reduced mass schedule and seating capacity expanded from the existing 350 to 850. What’s wrong with this picture?

Why did Father Geary and a small group of appointees choose this path rather than build on the 22 acres donated for the express purpose of building a new Catholic church? Some say the infrastructure costs (sewer and water) were too expensive. Others have said that building on the 22 acre site will draw parishioners and their money away from Rockford’s Holy Family Catholic church, whose boundary ends right at the Boone county line. When the Historic church is gone, and the massive new church is operational, most will look back and regret the decisions a few made for the majority. There is a growing concern that politics and a false sense of urgency have overridden good judgment.

This is a call to action. If you are troubled by St James’ current direction and would like to preserve Belvidere’s historic St James Church and prevent the impact to the surrounding neighborhood please:

  • Call and write your alderman to voice your opinion before the July 5th meeting,
  • Contact Father Geary or Bishop Doran and request an explanation
  • Contact “Concerned citizens to save St James Church” and get involved
    • Robert Casey ( 815-540-8655
    • Michael Mattus ( 815-985-5560
    • Dan & Jean Christenson ( 815-543-4179