After hearing impassioned pleas from many residents, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted 5-2 Monday night to recommend that the Village Council reject a proposed amendment to the Forest Park zoning ordinance that would prohibit new construction on lots of less than 30 feet.
Board chairman Michael Curry and Richard Scafidi cast the only votes in favor of the proposed change.
“I don’t think it makes sense to take away a subdivided lot from a property owner who has paid taxes (on the lot),” said zoning board member Jolyn Crawford.
Opponents of the change repeatedly charged that the proposed change would discriminate against south Forest Park, where small lots are common and would harm homeowners who currently own vacant 25 foot lots next to their existing homes.
“My retirement nest egg is my property,” said long-time homeowner Tom
Liss. “By enacting this text change the village is reaching into my pocket and taking my money.”
The proposed ban on building on lots of less than 30 feet is designed to limit the development of larger homes on smaller lots and to maintain the character of Forest Park, according to Jo Ellen Charlton, the planning consultant for the village.
On June 27th the Village Council voted to impose a moratorium on issuing building permits for lots of less than 30 feet.
But opponents of the change maintained that homes on small lots is part of the character of Forest Park.
“Twenty five-foot lots are typical on the south side of Forest Park,” said Liss. “People are not buying in Forest Park because they want large lots.”
Roger Masson rejected the argument that the proposed change would maintain the character of Forest Park.
“This amendment does not address the building of condos and town homes in south forest Park,” said Masson. “That would be a big change of character. The addition of a few single family homes in south Forest Park is not a big change of character. It’s unfair to homeowners who sell their homes and to those who want to use their equity to borrow money. It’s unfair to me because I’m selling my house for $19,000 less,” he said.
Liss was satisfied with the outcome of the vote.
“I’m pleased to see that the zoning board has recognized that this is having a big impact on citizens in this community. It’s having a serious financial impact and I hope that the village council will pay attention to what happened here tonight and also vote to reject this zoning amendment and lift the moratorium immediately.”
The zoning board took up numerous other matters during the 5.5 hour meeting.
• The Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of zoning variances to allow for a renovation of the McDonalds at 420 DesPlaines Avenue, conditioned upon village approval of a right turn only sign at the exit of the restaurant to Desplaines and the expansion of a guardrail separating the McDonalds parking lot from the adjacent gas station.
The proposed changes will include a complete renovation of all public places in the restaurant and will also make the restaurant compliant with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also planned are expanded rest rooms, upgrades to the kitchen, new furniture, and new, expanded drive through lane.
• The board voted 4-2 to continue a request for variances for a proposed four story, four unit condominium project at 212 Marengo. The property owner, Ronald Rosato, is proposing tearing down an existing 1.5 story home on the site. Neighbors expressed concern about the increasing density and parking problems on the street, the lack of landscaping, and the proposed 53 percent lot coverage.
When board members expressed concern about the lot coverage, Rosato said he would be willing to eliminate a proposed garage which would reduce the lot coverage to around 41%, according to his architect. Although the property is surrounded by multifamily buildings that are zoned R-2, board chairman Curry expressed concern about changing the zoning on this property to R-3 which would set a precedent for what is called spot zoning.
• The board also voted to continue the request for variances at
7410 Madison Street, the location of the now closed China Night restaurant.
Restaurateur Michael Pace requested more time to work with village staff on his proposal to build a restaurant with condos above. Pace said he was considering reducing the number of condominium units planned for the building from eight to seven. He also said he would consider removing the mezzanine section from his restaurant which was planned to be used only for office space and storage and that his building will be only four stories high. Village staff have indicated they would oppose a five story building even though five stories are allowed under the zoning code.
Parking remains an issue, as it always is on Madison street. The lot will only allow for 15 parking spaces, said Pace. The village ordinance requires two parking spaces for each residential unit.
• The Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of conditional use permit to allow a pet grooming and pet boarding business at 7638 Madison which is currently an insurance office. Patricia Littlecreek plans on moving her business from its current location in Oak Park. All the pets will remain inside the building at all times, according to Littlecreek.