To the Editor, At the June 17, 2019, New Buffalo City Council meeting, Mayor Lou O’Donnell implied that a Zoning Ordinance special land use variance request by Roger’s Wrecker Service was being handled through private meetings with attorneys because the request would mean a change in the Zoning Ordinance. This is not the legal process for a special land use request yet not one council member corrected Mr. O’Donnell.
Article 17 of the Zoning Ordinance requires all requests for Zoning changes or variances to be submitted to the Zoning Administrator (City Manager David Richards) then the request goes to the Planning Commission for public discussion, review and citizen input before a final decision is publicly made. Zoning decisions are governed through the Open Meetings Act with all records concerning requests for changes as well as the determination of the change to be recorded and available through the Freedom of Information Act.
Allison and Roger Lijewski, owners of Roger’s Wrecker Service, requested a public review for a special land use by the Planning Commission but were denied that request by Mr. Richards. Instead the Council voted to file suit against the Wrecker Service for not possessing the correct land use permit.
All residents are entitled by law to have their requests for special land uses reviewed by the Planning Commission instead of being required by the City Council to retain an attorney to hold discussions in secret meetings. This truly violates the spirit of open and honest government and leaves a very essential City business vulnerable to decisions made behind closed doors.