After a slew of suggestions and strong objections from several Forest Park residents the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decided to table its discussion for a further date on whether or not to amend zoning text that would no longer allow for new construction on 25-foot lots of record.
A general consensus was reached by committee members that before making a decision on the issue they would need to know exactly how many residents would be directly affected by the zoning change and whether or not the zoning change would even solve the problems the village is targeting.
The July 18 meeting lasted over two hours due to a strong showing of residents who spoke out before the board in vehement objection against the proposed ordinance. By night’s end over 10 residents presented personal hardships, research, prepared speeches, questions and comments about what they felt was an unconstitutional ordinance.
The ordinance in question was discussed briefly at the committee’s last meeting when it faced the issue of whether or not to put a moratorium on all construction involving 25-foot lots. The committee at that point decided not to act in that direction and sent the proposal to the village council. At the following village council meeting, council members voted for a freeze on new construction on 25 foot lots until the matter was resolved by the ZBA.
The text amendment would only affect residents who own two separate 25-foot lots of record with one home clearly set within the boundary of one 25-foot lot and the other 25-foot lot serving as a side yard. In most cases the residents who fall into this category had purchased that type of property with the intention of developing the empty 25 feet and in some cases the owners were depending on that development to financially secure their futures.
The spirit of the amendment seeks to protect Forest Park from becoming overpopulated. The village council showed concern when it saw developers coming into Forest Park and tearing down homes on 50-foot lots to build two separate smaller homes. That is playing a pivotal role in considering whether or not this amendment should be passed. South Forest Park seems to be the most negatively affected by the amendment. There 25-foot lots are common with well over 80 percent of lots falling into that category. In north Forest Park 50-foot lots are the norm.
Committee member William McKenzie urged residents to remember that if the amendment passed, the ZBA would still be willing to listen to any variance proposals regarding construction on 25-foot lots and would be understanding to the character of the surrounding area. In other words, if you live in south Forest Park and an entire block is covered with 25- to 30-foot lots, a chance of getting a variance is higher than if you were a developer in north Forest Park trying to consolidate two homes on a 50-foot lot where the rest of the block only has one.
Richard Masson, a Forest Park resident, spoke strongly against the issue. After reviewing the village council’s Jan. 25 meeting’s minutes (where this issue first came up), he concluded that the council was looking to accomplish five things with the amendment: controlling density, increasing tax revenue, controlling front yard setbacks, side yard setbacks and underground garages. He insisted that the proposed amendment fails to do any of those.
On the issue of density, he told the committee that in south Forest Park only 37 cases apply to the amendment. Out of those 37, only 18 or 19 could actually have new construction on their 25-foot side yard lot. “How can we be so concerned about density with the possibility of 18 new single family homes when we are allowing the Roos to build 136 condos?” Masson asked.
He explained to the committee that with new construction on these 25-foot lots would come higher tax revenue because nicer homes are taxed higher. Masson said according to the amendment, there would only be a six-inch increase in side yard setbacks. As far as underground garages and front yard setbacks, the amendment does nothing, he said.
“How could this amendment ever be passed if it fails to accomplish what it was originally intended to do? If anything it acts as an incentive not to invest in Forest Park. I urge this committee to look for a more targeted approach to solving the issues of this village.”
Jolyn Crawford, committee member, opposed the amendment telling residents that she is a facts and figures person and needs to know how many lots apply. She did not dismiss the ordinance altogether saying, “As a committee we need to think about the future of this town and its green space. God isn’t building any more land so we have to preserve what we have.”