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Rey's council vote raises eyebrows

DeKALB – Grumbles rippled through a recent DeKalb City Council meeting after the mayor cast a vote that led to a measure failing, calling his actions into question.

Aldermen had a lengthy discussion about a potential buyer’s request for a special-use permit to establish the property at 302 S. Third St., in DeKalb, as a two-family unit instead of its current single-family designation.

After all of the aldermen voted on the request, the decision was 4-3 in favor pushing the request on to second reading. Then Mayor John Rey cast his “no” vote creating a tie, which meant the measure failed, City Attorney Dean Frieders said.

“When a majority of aldermen vote in favor of any proposition, the mayor shall vote. That’s what state statute reads and that’s what city code reflects,” Frieders said.

Aldermen weren’t the only naysayers regarding the request. Three residents from the block addressed the council, imploring the city leaders to reject the request. Also, members of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission had previously recommended that the request not be granted, citing that it would set a unwanted precedent.

The home, one of eight on the block located between Prospect and Franklin streets, has obviously been used as a duplex. Currently, it has two front entryways and back doors, two electric and gas utility meters, but only one water line.

Judith Slauver, one of four in her family who owns the property, said the owners have rented it for the past 47 years but are now trying to sell it because the family is “downsizing” the number of properties it owns, because of health issues.

She said one of the units has not had a resident is five or six years.

Aldermen who favored granting the permit said the property has historically been used as a duplex. 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson, added that denying the request could kill the sale.

Those who opposed it didn’t want to give a pass to landowners who may be shirking the zoning law, even if unintentionally. They were poised to side with 4th Ward Alderman Bob Snow, in whose ward the house is located, as one alderman said things usually go.

“We always went to the alderman of the ward, who is the go-to person. ... Usually the council goes along with the alderman of that ward,” said Baker, who joined Snow in voting against the request. “He has the ear of residents.”

But Rey didn’t favor the request and voted against it.

Since he tied the vote, “I’ll declare the motion defeated,” Rey said.

Rey’s voting has drawn criticism in the past. In 2015, the mayor said he would vote less often after some residents questioned the practice.

In 2012, City Council members voted unanimously to have the mayor vote on all matters before the council. The change was made under Mayor Kris Povlsen, who later decided against running for another term.

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