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Yorkville downtown overlay project goes to City Council

YORKVILLE – Downtown Yorkville may soon have different zoning regulations intended to give the area a different look to boot.

The city's Planning and Zoning Commission voted, 4-0, in favor of the presented draft of the city's downtown overlay project, which includes a streetscape master plan and form-based zoning code. The vote came after the city’s overlay presentation and open house Wednesday night at City Hall, 800 Game Farm Road.

Krysti Noble, community development director for the city, said the presentations include what the city envisions the downtown looking like and the zoning code, which would be passed as an ordinance, that would help govern that aesthetic. She said what the city desires – which includes well-designed yet directionally functional street signs, building murals at the downtown gateways, outdoor seating for nearby restaurant patrons and added parking with a focus on Bridge Street, Hydraulic Street and Van Emmon Street – ultimately affects residents.

"It's very important for us to have that civic engagement component so that residents have an opportunity to have a say in what it is that we're planning," Noble said.

Doug Farr, founder of architecture firm Farr Associates, said a form-based code prioritizes the physical character of the development and land use is a secondary priority. He said the thought is more that a great public place is what drives economic development, and this type of zoning code can encourage mixed land uses with a more streamlined permitting process.

For example, Farr said, downtown Yorkville is a charming place and has a lot of history that the public wants preserved.

"That is an asset that you can build on," Farr said.

Dawn Witt, who lives in unincorporated Yorkville, was one of about ten people that came to the open house on Wednesday. She said she attended because she was curious of what the downtown plans entail.

Witt said she's hoping to see development on Hydraulic Street in particular and likes that the city is trying to think outside of the box to highlight the city's best parts of the downtown area, including the area along the Fox River.

"It'll be nice to see it all come to fruition," Witt said.

No one spoke in favor or against the project during the planning and zoning commission public hearing, which came before the vote on Wednesday night.

Noble said the form-based code ordinance would be effective immediately, should it be passed. She said the city is open to working with property owners and making adjustments to the documents as needed.

"At no point are we ever done planning," Noble said.

The proposed code changes and streetscape master plan for the downtown area will now go before the City Council for approval. City officials said they anticipate the plans to be on the agenda for the City Council's May 14 meeting.

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