The action Monday by the village council to freeze building permits for developers trying to squeeze too many homes on too small a lot is encouraging for at least two reasons.
First it acknowledges an awareness of density as a true issue in Forest Park and recognizes that the village has the right and duty to intervene to prevent the further crimping of open space in town.
Second, the unanimous vote gives us encouragement that this divided council might find a path to dealing with other pressing and contentious housing issues in Forest Park.
Some background. In an odd loophole left open from 40-plus years ago, developers have been able to turn back the zoning clock to a time when it was legal to build a house on a 25-foot wide lot. So even if two small lots had been combined and built on as a 50-foot lot, developers have, in some instances, bought that house, demolished it, and smushed two oversized homes onto undersized lots.
The council in its vote Monday asks the village’s Zoning Board to change the definition of a buildable lot to no less than 30-feet. A simple change which nixes this aspect of overbuilding. It seems clear from past actions that the Zoning Board will readily put its stamp on this action.
Now, with this success and the satisfaction which we imagine might come from cooperative governance, it is time for the council to tackle other, more complex aspects of non-conforming housing in town.
A rationale for fees
The trend toward municipal governments creating a pay-as-you-go fee structure to fund direct village services is now so common as to not be a trend anymore. It is a reality.
A citizen uses water. That citizen pays for that amount of water. A citizen generates garbage, yard waste, recycling. That citizen pays to have it hauled off.
As those costs rise, municipalities raise the fees they charge.
The result is that such direct services”as opposed to street repaving or buying a new fire truck”are paid for through fees not out of general property tax revenues.
Forest Park has the fee concept down but the execution has been flawed in past years. Fees have not always been gradually increased. The result is that potential revenues have been foregone and added pressure has been placed on general municipal funds.
Village Administrator Michael Sturino has a clear sense of the direction this needs to take and it is, as we’ve previously noted, reflected in his proposed budget. Monday night, the village council proffered a slight hiccup on the fee issue and we wanted to offer encouragement that they not get derailed on this.
Waiting for a new refuse contract to be inked before setting a fee increase is logical. But let’s not lose track of it. And bumping water rates ought to be a no-brainer.