DANVILLE — As city officials hope to hear positive news this year about the city’s casino license, the business that raised objections to the new casino location under a new plan for the casino’s initial phase is suing the city over the rezoned property.
Mervis Industries Inc. filed the lawsuit in December and is asking a declaratory judgment that the Danville City Council’s zoning approval is invalid pursuant a LaSalle National Bank of Chicago vs. County of Cook case.
Attorneys for Mervis Industries, with Adam Mervis as president and CEO and Michael Mervis as secretary, are with the firm King & Spalding LLP of Chicago.
Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said Sybil Mervis, her daughter and other sons are not part of the lawsuit.
Williams also says the city council operated within its legal authority as a home rule municipality in changing the zoning for the casino site; and he doesn’t anticipate the lawsuit affecting the city’s casino application.
The city earlier this month filed a time extension motion to file responsive pleading, which was agreed to.
The Complaint for Declaratory Judgment states “On Sept. 15, 2020, the Danville City Council voted to approve the rezoning of 204 Eastgate Drive in Danville, Illinois from ‘General Industrial’ to ‘General Business’ to enable the placement of a casino in the middle of a heavy industrial corridor. In approving the rezoning application for 204 Eastgate Drive, the Danville City Council ignored the Danville Area Planning & Zoning Commission’s finding of fact and final determination that 204 Eastgate Drive should not be rezoned to ‘general business.’ Among other stated reasons for denying the rezoning of 204 Eastgate Drive, the Planning & Zoning Commission found that the proposal was inconsistent with both Danville’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance, incompatible with existing uses and existing zoning classifications of property within the area, and inconsistent with the character of the surrounding area.”
“Mervis Industries owns three facilities on Eastgate Drive, including properties immediately adjacent to 204 Eastgate Drive. Since the early 2000s, as part of its metal recycling operations, Mervis Industries has operated a scrap metal processing facility at 222 Eastgate Drive, immediately south of 204 Eastgate Drive. Mervis Industries brings this declaratory judgement action to invalidate the Danville City Council’s rezoning of 204 Eastgate Drive… because that body acted arbitrarily, capriciously and unreasonably in approving the rezoning application.”
“Accordingly, Mervis Industries asks this Honorable Court to declare that the Sept. 15, 2020 approval of the rezoning request for 204 Eastgate Drive is invalid.”
It also states “In approving zoning petition #279, the Danville City Council incorrectly determined that a casino is permitted under the B-3 General Business zoning district.”
“The Danville City Council’s approval of zoning petition #279, which carved out a portion of a heavy industrial corridor that was intentionally designated to keep the public away from such operations, is intended to create an attraction and steer the public towards heavy industrial operations, and is wholly inconsistent with the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.”
“Designating 204 Eastgate Drive as B-3 general business will: diminish the value of neighboring properties and place an undue burden on public infrastructure; (and) negatively impact the public for the benefit only of the property’s current owner. 204 Eastgate Drive is not suitable for a casino or for the purposes set forth in B-3 general business because that use is inconsistent with the use of the surrounding properties in a heavy industrial corridor. There is no community need for a casino located at 204 Eastgate Drive, as there are other viable locations for a casino in Danville.”
At the zoning commission meeting, Michael Mervis voiced concerns about parking, traffic issues with semi trucks, and brought up how there are loud industrial sites near the new proposed temporary casino site.
Some zoning commissioners who voted against the rezoning were worried about the future uses of the site with the zoning change, and the increased traffic at that location.
One of the zoning commissioners who voted against it was Ted Vacketta. He recused himself from voting on the previous casino zoning petition on a property closer to the interstate, owned by Riverbend Development, Lou Mervis heirs, and with a different development team, due to Vacketta’s employer, Mervis Industries’ financial interest in the project.
The city council last year voted 10-0 to approve rezoning 204 Eastgate Drive from I2 general industrial zoning to B3 general business zoning for Danville Development LLC’s proposed temporary casino.
Due to the rezoning request being denied by the Danville Area Planning and Zoning Commission, the rezoning needed two-thirds vote of the city council, or 10 of 14 aldermen, to be approved.
Ward 5 Alderman Mike Puhr, who also was a casino steering committee member, last year said the temporary casino location change came about when the price for the Mervis land near Interstate 74 became too expensive. The Mervis’ asking price increased from $3 million to $12 million. A $6 million offer was turned down, Puhr said.