The Joliet City Council this week sidetracked plans to turn a two-unit building into housing for veterans.
The house at 117-119 S. Eastern Ave. still can be used for veteran housing for a single family, but it no longer can be two units, as it has been for at least 118 years.
The property, along with others in the neighborhood, was downzoned in 1995 to single-family status, although it continued to be used as a two-unit building.
Catherine Beavers, who runs a nonprofit providing transitional housing for veterans, sought a zoning variation that would have allowed the building to remain two units. But the council turned her down Monday in a 5-2 vote.
Beavers said Thursday that she was “shocked” by the council vote and disturbed by comments made by council member Jan Quillman, who among other things said that “her properties are problems.”
“I thought it was a shoo-in,” Beavers said of her request for the variation. “I was in shock. I have a history that I think speaks for itself.”
She started the Family & Friends Homeless Veteran Program in 2008. Beavers said she provides transitional housing for 14 veterans in Joliet.
But she also ran into resistance from the City Council in May 2016, when Beavers sought the same variation after buying a house at 7-9 Cagwin St. that had been downzoned to single-family but continued to be used for multiple tenants.
Beavers got the variation after bringing several veterans to the meeting who spoke for her and challenged the council’s support of veterans.
Quillman had voted for the Cagwin Street rezoning, but she called on the council to vote against another variation for Beavers.
“I want the veterans to have a safe environment to live in,” Quillman said. “Mrs. Beavers has a history of buying these houses before she checks the zoning.”
Quillman, the wife of a Vietnam War veteran and a volunteer for the Honor Flight Network that flies elderly veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit national war monuments, said, “I have nothing against the veterans, but why go through all this?”
City staff had recommended approval of the variation, noting that the property on Eastern Avenue has been used for two units since at least 1900, but also suggested imposing conditions to ensure that building code violations were addressed and more parking was added.