Wheaton Mayor Mayor Gresk will soon have the official right to vote.
Though he and former mayors of the City of Wheaton have voted on all matters before Council in the past, an updated provision of the City Code would clarify Gresk’s right to vote, and formally include him in votes on ordinances that currently call for a vote by council members only.
City Council Monday agreed to direct city staff to amend the provision of the City Code after staff recommended the clarification to avoid any argument that City Code is inconsistent. The clarification would come in advance of a controversial petition to amend a zoning ordinance to allow senior housing at the Courthouse Square development.
City Attorney Jim Knippen told Council Monday, “There are provisions of City Code which are inconsistent—or potentially arguably inconsistent."
Owners of undeveloped property at Courthouse Square are proceeding to propose amendments to the Courthouse Square project to allow senior housing on an undeveloped portion of the site, according to a city memo. City staff have discussed the application and analyzed legal issues with the application, and “substantial scrutiny has been applied to existing city ordinances, which may impact the proposal because of its controversial nature,” according to the memo.
City Manager Don Rose said because most people at Courthouse Square don't want a senior living facility on the property, "we anticipate there may be litigation (against the city and/or developer) from homeowners ... So we've checked and double checked all processes and ordinances."
A zoning ordinance adopted in 1998 calls for a vote by members of the City Council, but it does not include the mayor. Knippen told council if an issue related to the ordinance came before council, it could be seen as inconsistent with the city's ordinance adopted in 1968, which allows the mayor the right to vote on all issues.
“As far as we can remember, the mayor of Wheaton has voted on all matters,” Knippen said.
As a home rule municipality, Wheaton officials have the discretion to decide whether to include the mayor's vote, Knippen said.
Councilman Phil Suess said he has no doubt that Wheaton's City Council operates with the mayor's votes. "That’s a conscious decision relative to other forms of government where the mayor only votes in a tie," he said.
Councilman Todd Scalzo said he doesn’t see why the city’s policy would be to exclude the mayor’s vote.
Councilman John Rutledge agreed. The issue seems to be a "no-brainer," he said.
“There are seven people elected to serve. Why should we restrict the number to six as opposed to seven?" Rutledge asked.
Councilwoman Jeanne Ives said she couldn’t imagine Gresk having no say in city matters.
“I voted for Mayor Gresk. I can’t imagine I voted for him so that he doesn’t have a vote,” Ives said. Other voters who elected Gresk would probably agree, she added, “I think that’s what the residents expect—that he has a vote.”
Councilwoman Evelyn Pacino-Sanguinetti said legally she did not see the inconsistency. However a unanimous vote gave staff direction to prepare a first reading of an amended ordinance for the next regular City Council meeting Monday Jan. 16 at .