ELMHURST – Despite last month’s order that it be removed, the topic of the controversial backyard hoop house showed no signs of abating at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Seven residents spoke up during the meeting in support of the temporary structure that residents Nicole and Dan Virgil erected in the backyard of their home in the 500 block of South Fairview Avenue to extend the growing season of garden vegetables. The Virgils spoke as well, as the subject of the hoop house dominated the public comment portion of the meeting Feb. 6.
Nicole Virgil questioned why, given that the legality of the hoop house was first questioned in the fall of 2016, no attempt was made by the City Council in the interim to codify the city’s stance and thus avoid confusion.
“This is one of the things that I had asked about last fall when we were discussing this with code enforcement.”
“I am advised by an attorney that … it is possible for the city to consider researching and drafting an ordinance to support and provide for hoop houses, even while … legal proceedings are going on,” Virgil said. “This is one of the things that I had asked about last fall when we were discussing this with code enforcement.”
The Virgil family was ordered in January to remove the hoop house by Feb. 28.
A number of the speakers in favor of allowing the hoop house to remain spoke about the trend of homeowners wanting the grow their own produce or to consume produce grown near their home, a movement whose proponents are known as “locavores.” But Alderman Chris Healy said his objection to the hoop house wasn’t about what happened inside the structure – his concerns were tied to the structure itself.
“The issue, to me, is not about farming, it’s not about organics, it’s not about being green, that’s not the issue at all,” Healy said. “The issue has to do with temporary structures on property and what those temporary structures are made of and how big they are.”
Healy also said that while no residents had come to Monday’s meeting to speak in opposition to the hoop house – nor at any other meeting – he had spoken to a number of individuals privately who are opposed to its continued existence.
“I can tell you from firsthand experience, there are many people that feel strongly the opposite way,” Healy said.
The Virgils and several of the other residents who spoke raised the hope that the ordinance might still be changed to allow the hoop house to remain, or to allow it for next winter.
“As seasons go, we’d like, optimally, to have something in place before fall 2017, so, let’s go,” Nicole Virgil said.
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