City of Elmhurst News

Posted on: January 6, 2017

Clarity on Zoning Codes for Greenhouses in Elmhurst

clarity on zoning codes for greenhouses

Recently the City has been questioned on zoning laws for temporary and membrane structures including hoop houses in residential districts.

Below is a list of questions and answers that provide clarity to this topic.  


Q.  Can you have a green house in your backyard in the City of Elmhurst?

A. Yes. All single-family residential districts allow greenhouses as a permitted accessory building.  However, it must be a permanent structure that meets the Elmhurst Building Code, Engineering and stormwater requirements, and all applicable zoning setback and coverage requirements.


Q. Can a resident in Elmhurst garden in their back yard?

A. Yes. The City does not regulate gardening on private property.


Q. Are hoop houses permitted in the City of Elmhurst?

A. Hoop houses are not currently permitted in the City of Elmhurst.  They are considered a membrane structure as defined by both the Elmhurst Zoning Ordinance and the International Building Code.  Membrane structures are prohibited in both the Elmhurst Zoning Ordinance and Building Code Local Amendments. 


Q.  The words “hoop house” do not appear in the Elmhurst Zoning Ordinance.  Since the use is not listed in the Zoning Ordinance, shouldn’t that mean they are allowed? 

A.  The Elmhurst Zoning Ordinance is designed to be permissive.  Anything not listed, is not allowed. Any items not allowed can be petitioned or presented to City government to initiate a text amendment to amend the zoning ordinance.


Q. How do I find out what materials are approved to build a structure?

A. Discuss your plan with the City’s building department before the structure is built. Not all materials are approved, including PVC pipes and plastic sheeting.


Q. What is the policy for applying municipal property maintenance and building codes?

A. The City applies codes in an objective consistent manner. All complaints received are treated equally.


Q. How do I go about initiating a change in the Elmhurst Zoning Ordinance? 

A. You can apply for a text amendment. This is a detailed process that requires review and approval by the Zoning and Planning Commission, Development Planning and Zoning Committee, and City Council.

 

Q. What is the process for a Code Enforcement Complaint?

A. When the City receives a code enforcement complaint, a code enforcement officer will inspect the address in question and take the appropriate action based on his/her observations. If a violation is present, a property maintenance notice will be sent to the resident asking them to correct the violation. Code Enforcement officers review and evaluate each case on an individual basis and will always discuss alternate options in order to be code compliant. Yellow violation cease and desist stickers are not used by the City of Elmhurst. Residents are always contacted by mail or telephone on code violations.


Q. Aren’t temporary structures allowed if a temporary use and event permit is issued by the City of Elmhurst?

A. Temporary uses and events may be permitted in any residential, office, commercial or industrial district pursuant to a permit that may be issued upon written application to the City Manager. In any residential district, such temporary uses and events may only be authorized when sponsored by and for the benefit of not-for-profit, charitable, eleemosynary, or governmental entities that are a permitted or established conditional use in the district in which such property is located and such use or event(s) held on property owned or controlled by such entities.  A permit for a temporary use or event shall be for a fixed term established at time of issuance, not to exceed 30 days and only 3 such permits should be issues to the same applicant for the same premises each calendar year.  However, single-family resident property owners cannot obtain a temporary use permit for their home.


Q. Can a petition change an existing City ordinance? 

A. A formal change cannot be made based on a petition. Although petitions bring attention to the topic, a formal process needs to occur in order to change an Elmhurst ordinance.


Q. What are the actual Elmhurst City Codes that are violated with a “hoop house” temporary membrane structure? 

A. Elmhurst Building Code Amendment Section 2 #46.3102.0 states “Membrane Structures shall not be permitted.” Municipal Code Chapter 22.42 – Regulations for specific uses (c)(2) “A mobile home and temporary tents and membrane structures shall not be permissible as an accessory building.”

 

Q. Why are codes needed? 

A. Codes are developed by the community through the public hearing process to express the type of community they want. Codes are necessary to protect the health, welfare and safety of the neighborhood.

 

Q. Does the City publicly comment on specific zoning violations? 

A. The City does its best to respect both the property owner and complainant’s privacy.  The City limits public comment on specific open code violations.

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