ROCHELLE — A setback variance was approved by Rochelle City Council members Monday night that will allow for a local business to move forward with expansion plans. However, the originally proposed request was amended prior to council approval.
The petitioner, Pasquesi Farms LLC, also known as MightyVine, was originally seeking a variance request for a 20-foot setback rather than the required 60-foot front setback in order to construct a proposed packhouse expansion at its facility on Centerpoint Drive. This would be MightyVine’s fourth expansion.
However, Sergio Gomez of MightyVine approached council and asked to amend the petition to allow for a 16-foot setback instead of the 20-foot setback. The location for the proposed packhouse was chosen in order to be adjoining with the existing packhouse.
“When we originally discussed what we were trying to do for our facility to try to make it more efficient, more safe and accessible for our growth within the community and our greenhouse, we thought that the 20-foot setback was what we needed,” Gomez said.
“But after revisiting the layout and talking to Tim of Bruns Construction, the actual variance that we really need is 16 feet from the 60-foot existing setback. We are trying to work with him and reassess to make sure that as we continue to grow, as we continue to get more opportunities with retailers and provide more jobs and eventually get more automation to redeploy the existing people in the packhouse to other functioning jobs, we feel that it’s important for us to not go for the original 20-foot but only 16-foot variance. We realigned our expectations that will still make it efficient and still appease, I believe, the space for the beautification and the other additional expansion in that area.”
Prior to voting on the amendment, council members discussed the proposal. Public comment was also allowed prior to council vote.
“I’m not opposed to the 16-foot expansion because MightyVine is a benefit to the city,” council member Tom McDermott said. “I know we’ve given expansions or variances before to people who need it… a little more room for a rickhouse and basically butted up to our sidewalks which isn’t in city code, but it was the right thing for the city…like I say, I have no problem with the 16-foot expansion. I like it a lot better than the 40-foot to be honest with you, but realistically, whoever owns out there needs to start maintaining their properties better.”
Rick and Doris Kennay, who have personal interest in the request for the variance, own approximately 200 acres to the north of the parcel that they had planned on developing. The Kennays are owners of the Kennay Farm Distillery in downtown Rochelle.
“It is our concern that precedence is going to be made by allowing this, there wasn’t a plan made in advance,” Doris said. “I know you brought up the rickhouse, but we made that plan before we built it and went through the proper steps to do so. As far as the looks of it, we totally agree. Maintenance has not been kept up and one of our concerns out there is the overall project in all honesty. We’ve had some concerns that we’ve voiced and have been ignored about that. We just have to look out for our best interest as far as future development and that’s something, I’m sure, the City of Rochelle wants as well, for that to be a corridor out there and to continue to thrive.”
Following public comment, council member Tom McDermott made a motion to amend the ordinance variation to a 16-foot setback for MightyVine. The amendment passed 7-0. The council then voted 7-0 to approve the amendment and granted the ordinance variation for related setbacks for the MightyVine project.
A public hearing was originally held Tuesday, Sept. 8 at the city’s planning and zoning meeting in which the commission voted to deny the variance of setbacks/lot coverage by a vote of 4-1.