By Stephanie Malench
The Highland City Council met on June 7 to a packed house. The meeting began with a plaque presentation from Highland VFW Post 5654 to Mayor Kevin B. Hemann in memory of the late mayor Joe Michaelis. The plaque was originally set to be presented to Michaelis on May 22 on the 75th anniversary as a thank you for his work for the Veteran’s Parkway and Veteran’s Honor Park in spite of not being a veteran.
During public forum, Relevant Pregnancy Options Center asked for and was granted permission to hold their 5K Life Run/2M Walk4Life on September 25. the event will start and end at the corner of Laurel and Main Streets on the square.
The Highland Jaycees also announced and were given permission to hold Schweizerfest on the weekend of August 27-29 on the square. Normally that is the weekend Kirchenfest is held, but due to the construction project expanding St. Paul’s Church, Father Pat gave his blessing for the Jaycees to hold the Schweizerfest that weekend for the benefit of the community.
The Oak Ridge Subdivision was also approved to hold their block party on June 26 from 5-9 p.m.
Highland Optimist Club will be bringing their pizza wagon to the Kloss Furniture parking lot on June 11-13 as a stand alone event in response to the delay in holding Schweizerfest.
Only one resident chose to address the council on an issue not already on the agenda. The resident expressed concern that no progress is being made on making the intersection of Cypress and Lindenthal a four-way stop. Hemann informed the resident that a traffic study has been conducted and the city staff has not released their findings yet.
A number of items were addressed during new business, the most heated being a request to rezone 140 Woodcrest, the former site of Putt Putt which has sat vacant for several years, from “C-3” Highway business district to “I” Industrial.
Jessica and Jason Prichard, owners of Double J Doggie Play N Stay were looking to expand and move their grooming and day care operations to the new property.
During public comment on the issue, 14 out of 16 emails received were in support of the rezoning, saying Double J is a high quality business that benefits the residents of Highland that needs to expand.One of the emails against the rezoning was from a day care owner on the block concerned about the environmental impact from dog feces making its way into the creek that runs behind both properties during flooding and depositing it on the playground and that the barking dogs would disrupt classes held outdoors.
The owner of Olde Wicks Factory Event Space, Jennifer Ostrander, expressed concern that barking dogs would ruin special moments for couples getting married on the north patio.
The zoning board had unanimously denied the request during their meeting due to all of the rest of the properties in the area being zoned business and the uncertainty of what would move into the area should the Double J ever close or move from the location.
Councilman Rick Frey said that there are lots of little issues to be worked out, but “it’s not dead in the water”.
Councilwoman Peg Bellm replied that she cannot override the Planning and Zoning Board’s decision, having served on the committee before. She did inform the Prichards that the city would do everything they could to help them find a suitable location within the city. Bellm also asked during requests from the Council earlier in the meeting that the city look into updating the land use map that was last updated in 2017.
The council unanimously denied the zoning variance.
The council approved several change orders for existing projects, including water main improvements, two for the public safety building pertaining to changes to equipment and upgrade of materials.
A bid for a new pickup truck for the parks department was rejected due to only one bid coming in over the budget due to supply chain issues due to COVID.
A resolution approving $1450 in Hotel/Motel Tax funding for Louis Latzer Memorial Library to complete Virtual Google Mapping of the inside of the library for virtual tours to be used in marketing the library.
The council approved a proposal for engineering services with Oates Associates for the Matter Drive and Executive Drive Reconstruction projects.
The bid for new LED lights from Frost Electric totaling $42,435 for the Willow Creek Estates was approved per the contract with the Willow Creek Estates Homeowners Association.
The city was awarded a grant from the Illinois Housing Development Authority for $45,000 as reimbursement for tearing down condemned houses.
Several pieces of surplus property were approved for sale or disposal, including damaged and outdated Christmas lights, holiday decorations, a reel trailer and police vehicles.
An ordinance was passed amending the Alcohol Liquor Code to increase the number of A1 liquor licenses (a tavern license without video gaming) to five so that the Highland Arts and Crafts could obtain a license to sell wine).
The next meeting is June 21 at 7 p.m.