The City Council unanimously approved a motion to seek a judgment at Monday’s regular meeting. Mayor Paul Jennings said before anyone challenges the ordinance’s legality in court, the city needs to find out for itself.
“We’re trying to be proactive on this,” Jennings said. “If I have to fight, I’d rather take a fight I could win.”
The city’s concern stems from the original passage of the zoning ordinance in 2008. City officials have said that the council that passed the ordinance did so without a proper public hearing.
Jennings shared a letter after the meeting from attorney John Rea, on behalf of landowners in the area. The letter stated that the landowners believe the ordinance is invalid, and requests that Argo rescind it in its entirety.
The council held a special called meeting and went into executive session in late April.
“We want to do right,” Jennings said. “That’s where we’re leaning. To not enforce anything until they get something back, gives them the authority to do something.
“I feel like now that we have knowledge of something we feel made it invalid, if we tried to enforce anything now, we would be liable.”
Zoning board chairman Jim Link told the council he had “nothing to report” during the meeting, and afterward said the board is currently enforcing no part of the code. If the ordinance is ruled invalid, Jennings said the city will have to see how it proceeds.
“Basically, it looks like to start over,” he said. “There’s been some question as to when we can start over. We can’t start over until we get a decision if it’s valid.
“If we get into this and we know we’re wrong about something with this ordinance, we want to do it 100 percent correct the next time. We’re going to do it as quickly as we can, but we’re not going to go into it and make mistakes.”
The ordinance was called into question after an attempt to pass an amendment to the ordinance failed last month. The amendment — which went through multiple public hearings and was passed twice by the zoning board — would have authorized creation of a manufactured home district in the Freeze Mountain area of Argo. The amendment failed to receive the necessary four votes from the council to become law.
Monday’s motion to seek a judgment passed the council with no discussion.
“I think we’ve discussed it out pretty much the other day,” Jennings said.
The mayor said the declaratory judgment would come from St. Clair County circuit court, though he did not know whether Judge James Hill or Judge Phil Seay would hear the case.
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.