Arguments over a controversial luxury apartment development in Shiloh made it to court last Thursday.
Lawyers for village, as well as plaintiff Charlotte Cox, presented their case to St. Clair County Judge Julia Gomric, who postponed making a decision until further reviewing the case.
"I haven't listened to the audio recordings yet from the (Sept. 5, 2017) meeting,” Gomric said.
That meeting last September, where trustees ultimately approved rezoning and special use requests for The Savannah luxury apartment developers, is what the entire matter hinges upon.
In a complex — and at times confusing — back-and-forth of motions, counter motions, amended motions, and motions to reconsider, the board voted numerous times at its Sept. 5 meeting on the project before Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier cast two tie-breaking votes. Trustee Kurt Burrelsman also flipped his vote. In the end, the board approved switching the site from single-family to multi-family and also granted a special use permit — zoning requests developers needed in order to move forward.
Cox, who lives on Cross Street in Shiloh, filed her suit just 10 days after the meeting. Cox is asking for declaratory judgment nullifying the village's Sept. 5 vote on hot-button project. Cox's assertion is that, after its initial votes for denial on the project, the board should not voted on it for another year, per village ordinance.
According to the village ordinance, "If a request for a special use is denied by the village board, a special use re-submittable, on the parcel, but the same owner/applicant, will not be accepted by the village for one year following the village board meeting at which the denial was made."
Village ordinance also says, "If a request for an amendment is denied by the Village Board, an amendment/rezoning request, on same parcel, by the same owner/applicant, will not be accepted by the village, for one year following the village board meeting at which the denial was made."
Jason Caraway, of Caraway, Fisher & Broombaugh, P.C. of Belleville, is representing Cox in the suit.
Caraway said in court last Thursday that "the facts and audio recordings (from the Sept. 5 board meeting) are not disputed."
He went on to discuss the "eight-step process" the village goes through when a special use permit comes before the board for approval or denial that includes public notices, public hearings and various levels of board meetings before the planning commission and village board of trustees.
There were six amendments that Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier typed up before the Sept. 5 meeting that were not shared with all the trustees or public prior to a public hearing or meeting, which Caraway pointed out to the judge had "substantial changes."
"There's a whole laundry list of things you're supposed to do to get these applications to their final vote -- none of that happened," Caraway said. "...Whatever was voted on the second time wasn't proper."
Charles Pierce, of Pierce Law Firm, P.C. of Belleville is the village's counsel on the case.
The village's response to the lawsuit, dated Feb. 14, 2018 claims the village was appropriate. The motion to reconsider another vote at the Sept. 5 meeting is not the same as a re-submittable, the village's response says.
"Again, to reach the desired result, plaintiff is misreading the plain language of that section," the document states. "The plain reading of this indicates that this applies to a re-submittable, not a reconsideration on the same night."
Citing use of Robert's Rules of Order, Pierce claims on behalf of the village, "standard procedure freely allows amendments of motions.”
“The simple fact that the plaintiff is unhappy with the outcome is not a basis for overturning the vote of the duly-elected officials," Pierce argued in the village response.
During the court hearing Thursday, Pierce posed the question to the judge, "Are they allowed to change the rules?"
Pierce went on, "They aren't challenging the amendments, but the procedures, and that is a very slippery slope."
The Savannah, being developed by Edwardsville-based Crevo Capital, will be a 311-unit apartment complex on a 26-acre site just south of Memorial Hospital East, across the street from Tamarack Lane.
At its meeting on Oct. 23, the board voted to “ratify and restate actions taken by the village board authorizing” in regards to The Savannah, beginning with the pre-application conference on April 7 and every other official village action to date, including zoning changes granted in September.
The project has since moved forward with zoning, permits for infrastructure, including street lights, and sewer funding agreement requests. All have gained approval from the village board.
The development will have multiple buildings, a club house with a pool, garage, a dog park, walking trails, community gardens and a recreational lake. Rent will range from about $1,200 per month for a one-bedroom to a maximum of $2,000 for a three-bedroom depending on amenities and unit selection.