FULTON, Ill. — At its regular meeting on Monday night, the Fulton City Council decided to move forward with an ordinance concerning the downtown heritage district area.

Council member Ron Roels told the council the Heritage Area Ad Hoc Committee is prepared to make its recommendation to the council. The committee has met several times over the last five months to discuss changes to the ordinance, which is aimed at preserving the historical integrity of downtown Fulton while planning for the future. Roels said the changes would make the ordinance less restrictive than it currently is.

“We have changed the ordinance and I think, significantly improved it,” Roels said. He added the committee attempted to balance property owner rights with the rights of downtown business people to protect their investment. He said the task was very difficult.

Proposed changes to the ordinance include requiring the maintenance of exposed glass and brick facades, disallowing the construction of storage shed units in the district, a restriction on demolishing historic buildings unless hardship can be proven and requiring that awnings installed in the future be made of fabric.

The ordinance would restrict metal exterior buildings from being constructed in the designated area unless covered with a brick facade matching consistent patterns of the district and will require new building exteriors to have 50 percent of the front facade be made of materials such as glass, wood, brick or an approved equivalent.

Single family residences would not be included unless they become a commercial property.

The committee is requesting the city implement a facade improvement matching grant program and put $10,000 in the new budget for the program to encourage property owners to historically preserve and enhance their buildings. Grants of up to $2,500 could be used for building improvements.

Some council members questioned specific recommendations made by the committee. Ward 2 Alderman Merle Sterenberg asked about the Drives Inc. building located on First Street and whether the building should be included in the district. Ward 2 Alderman Charlie Letcher echoed that statement and said he was concerned the build dates for many buildings downtown, including the Drives building, would be different.

Roels said the building is included in the heritage area because it is a historic building and it stands in close proximity to the area being developed on Fulton’s riverfront. Tourism Director Heather Bennett said an adaptive re-use plan would still be viable with the Drives building and the proposed changes to the ordinance would not limit its use for other purposes in the future.

Ward 1 Alderman Keith King said he questioned the grant program and had a problem using taxpayers’ money to support a few local businesses in the district. He said it would be unfair to use tax dollars from everyone in the city to bolster improvements in such a limited area of town. Roels said the program wouldn’t be different than current Tax Increment Financing districts in which tax money is used to improve commercial areas.

Bob Kettler, owner of Accessible Mini Storage at 901 First St. in downtown Fulton, addressed the council and said he was formally protesting the ordinance. He said the proposed changes to the ordinance would be good for the district, but not for him as a business owner because the ordinance would forbid the construction of more storage units in the district and adversely affect the marketable value of his property. Kettler cited the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, saying government cannot deprive a person of life, liberty or property without the due process of law.

“Who’s going to buy my business if they can’t add any more?” asked Kettler. “To me, that decreases the value of my property.”

He said the property would be worth more on the market if he could build more storage units and the ordinance will limit what he can do with the property. Roels explained other uses for the riverfront property would still make it very appealing to buyers and developers.

Kettler had expressed concerns about the ordinance at previous committee meetings, saying the ordinance should apply to all business owners or it would be discriminating. Roels said Monday the committee would like to see a separate ordinance address the issue of storage unit sheds within city limits, perhaps limiting the construction of units to industrial areas only, and therefore the issue could be left out of the Heritage Area ordinance.

Ad Hoc Committee member Charles Dykstra urged the council to continue the process of approving the ordinance.

“I think this is so critical to our town. We have to think about the general good,” said Dykstra. “I would encourage you to move forward on this ordinance.”

A motion was made to continue progress on approving the proposed changes to the ordinance. The motion was passed by a 6-2 vote, with King and Ward 3 Alderman Mark Bressler voting no. Mayor Howard Van Zuiden thanked the committee for all of its work in researching proposed changes, hosting public meetings for input on the issue and compiling a comprehensive list of recommendations.

The council also discussed the impending closure of the U.S. 30 bridge. City Administrator Randy Balk said meetings with the Iowa and Illinois departments of transportation, as well as the Fulton Police Department and residents expressing concern over traffic flow, have led to the consideration of disallowing parking vehicles along 14th Avenue. He said the council should consider an ordinance that would make a portion of 14th Avenue closed to parking from Sixth Street to 17th Street to allow for a better line of sight for vehicles attempting to enter traffic.

“We’re hoping all will go well, but we have some contingencies in place,” Balk said.

A motion was made to have City Attorney Bill Shirk write an ordinance naming no parking areas in that section of 14th Avenue while U.S. 30 is being redirected. Balk said the city would individually notify residents in the corridor of the parking restrictions in the future if the ordinance is passed.