Check out this year’s Forest Park Community Guide!

Online edition –>

Village government and business officials agreed on the need for a new zoning district that would limit or exclude almost all non-retail based businesses from the Business Improvement District on Madison Street. The BID district was created three years ago.

“There will be a new downtown zoning district, subject to council approval,” Village Administrator Michael Sturino said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Following last week’s meeting, Sturino and outgoing Community Development Director Nancy Hill promised to begin working on a proposal for the new zoning ordinance that could be titled B-1 Downtown or Central Business District (CBD) and would include a list of accepted and conditional uses for the street.

The most striking change discussed was the elimination of all non-food serving taverns from Madison Street.

“We are trying to reinforce a new atmosphere and a new image that is more compliant to the residences that back up to [Madison Street,]” said Art Jones, of the Main Street Redevelopment Association.  “We don’t perceive ourselves as the watering hole for the Western Suburbs anymore.”

The code will provide a definition of retail that is broad enough to include a variety of goods that would help Madison Street, but at the same time would anticipate potential uses that wouldn’t be as compatible with what Madison Street is trying to achieve, Sturino said.

Allowed uses on the street, members agreed, would include second-floor apartments, bakeries, banks or financial institutions and almost all retail-driven businesses.

Multifamily apartments and condominiums will be allowed if they are part of a mixed-used building with retail on the first floor. Likewise, banks would be allowed, however, commercial schools would be excluded.

Dance academies, music academies and the like will be permitted uses on the second floor and classes will be permitted in first floor spaces only if they constitute a secondary use to a retail business, according to the proposal.

Parking structures could be allowed with provisions for ground floor retail facing the street, while fitness centers would be relegated to the second floor.

No electrical service repair shops would be allowed and laundry services would be limited to a drop-off and pick-up facility with no on-site plants.

Members noted during the meeting that a computer store that sells computers can do repairs on the side, but retail must be the primary focus.

Locksmiths would be allowed and pure caterers who do not sell food on-site would be excluded.

Food lockers and mortuaries would be eliminated as an accepted use, but shoe-repair shops would be added, as would be photography studios and postal services, such as Kinkos, FedEx and Mail Boxes, etc.

Recreation or amusement uses, such as Circle Theatre, would be permitted.

Other eliminated uses would include farming, plant and flower nurseries, animal grooming and boarding centers, billboards, bus or taxi terminals, monument works, tobacco shops, hotels or motels, plumbing, printing or radio and television stations, rooming houses, public warehouses and day-care centers.

Professional service offices would, for the most part, be limited to second-floor dwellings. 

Offices for attorneys, insurance companies, consultants etc. would be included in this category.  Dentists and doctors offices, however, would be allowed first floor uses in the district.

Drive-in and drive-through facilities, where services and or products are provided directly to customers in motor vehicles, would remain a conditional use in the district.

Other conditional uses would include parks, grocery stores and playgrounds.

Existing non-conforming uses will be grand-fathered by the new ordinance, Sturino said, allowing them to continue operating on Madison Street.  Thus existing taverns could potentially remain on Madison indefinitely if the proposal is adopted.

“If the non-conforming use is discontinued for a period of six months, they can’t reinstitute that old use, which isn’t allowed anymore at that location,” Sturino said,  “The only thing that can move into that building would be a permitted or conditional use under [the new] ordinance.”

Businesses excluded from the allowed use and conditional use lists can still resort to a text amendment to allow the use on the street.

For example, Sturino said, “we agreed we are going to get rid of tobacco shops, but an upscale tobacco shop can request [that we] amend the text to allow tobacco shops. The thing is we would not only allow [this shop,] but any tobacco shop in that zoning classification.  That is the reason test amendments are not as common as other forms of zoning relief.”

The proposed zoning will “provide some guidance to the committee and to the council on what the new downtown business zoning would allow,” Sturino said.

The decision to create a new zone came after discussions regarding zone overlays, which would allow the council to keep the existing B-1 zoning on Madison and add to the restrictions or definitions within that zone, for Madison Street only.

Creating a new zone is easier and eliminates some of the ambiguities in the old code, Sturino told attendees.

Members also discussed the creation of an adult use ordinance for the town

This is a completely separate zoning device that has been evolved over years of litigation to determine the manner in which certain forms of entertainment can be regulated and still constitutionally pass muster, Sturino said.

“What we are attempting to do is to provide for the constitutional safeguards for that type of expression while at the same time limiting it to areas where any negative secondary effects will be severely limited,” Sturino said.

In this adult-use ordinance, uses such as massage parlors or adult bookstores would be limited to certain areas of the village, such as industrial parkways.

Members of the village council, the Chamber of Commerce, and Main Street Redevelopment Association will meet again in two weeks to discuss sign ordinances and review the proposals.