Heated words were exchanged at Monday night’s meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals when caffe de Luca owner Art Sundry came before the board seeking a series of variations that would allow him to build an accessory cooler in the rear yard of his restaurant.
Sundry, who opened the restaurant about two years ago, explained that the lack of an adequately sized cooler was causing him to have to order more deliveries than should be necessary. “We’re having a tough time at peak hours meeting demand,” he said, also noting that decreased deliveries would reduce alley traffic behind the restaurant.
Sundry also made the case that moving the cooler outside would free up space in the restaurant’s relatively small kitchen area.
The variations Sundry requested would reduce the parking requirement for the restaurant from two spaces to none, reduce the separation between a principal and accessory structure from five to three feet, and reduce the required setback of the accessory structure to just under three feet.
Sundry noted that his plan fits with the village’s current direction of eliminating the parking requirement for businesses on Madison Street as part of the preparation of a Downtown Business District, which would set the wheels in motion for a parking structure to eventually be built in the area.
“We understand that, but right now there is a requirement,” responded ZBA chairman Michael Curry, who was one of four who eventually voted in favor of Sundry’s request.
ZBA member Richard Scafidi, among the three who voted in opposition, said that Sundry was “working under a self inflicted hardship,” and should have anticipated these problems when he first came before the ZBA two years ago.
Gloria Backman, who lives on the 7400 block of Warren Street across the alley from caffe de Luca, protested Sundry’s request.
“We couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous when (other petitioners at the meeting) told about how they approached their neighbors, because we’ve never been approached about any of the changes at caffe de Luca since they opened,” she said.
Backman said that even with the restaurant’s current parking, employees and owners frequently park in residential neighborhoods. She also said that the cooler would create a noise issue that would impact quality of life in the area.
“In the heat of the summer, when the cooler is running the most, we in the neighborhood are most likely to have our windows open or be out in our yard,” she said.
Sundry was unreceptive to the concerns expressed by Backman, who also spoke in protest in November when Sundry successfully appealed to the village council to allow the restaurant to begin offering valet parking.
“I’m tired of people who complain about everything constantly. If they complained periodically, I’d have more sympathy, but I’m at my wit’s end,” he said.
Sundry also dismissed Backman’s suggestion that the cooler instead be placed on the roof of his building. “I definitely don’t want to put it on the roof…I’m not interested,” said Sundry, explaining that the unit already cost $18,000 and it would cost another $7,000 to put it on the roof.
Forest Park resident Jerry Webster also spoke against Sundry’s request, scolding the village for putting the concerns of businesses ahead of residents. “The current petitioner could care less (about residents’ concerns),” he said. “It’s going to cost him a couple bucks, well too bad, I don’t care.”
The ZBA eventually voted 4-3 to recommend that the village council approve the request, but despite Sundry’s objections added a requirement for a noise reduction screen to be installed with the cooler.
Also at Monday’s ZBA meeting:
• The ZBA unanimously recommended approval of a variation to allow Consolidated Auto, 1045 Desplaines Avenue, to construct an addition in the rear of its building for temporary storage of cars prior to and shortly after being repaired.
In order to construct the addition, Consolidated Auto would have to eliminate some parking spaces, bringing its total number down to 64. The village normally required one parking space for every 200 square feet, which would mean 152 spaces for Consolidated Auto.
The addition would measure 13,028 square feet. The current building measures 17,109 square feet. Since the addition will increase the size of the building by more than 25 percent, it will be reviewed by the Plan Commission before coming before the village council for approval.
• Village Administrator Michael Sturino, with the assistance of intern Emily Topia, presented a brief workshop to discuss the possibility of creating a Downtown Business District.
The district, which has been in discussion for several months by the Business Improvement District (BID) committee, made up of business owners and village officials, would provide regulations to control development in the Madison Street area. It contains provisions regulating lot coverage, building heights and the types of business and residences to be allowed on Madison.
The only objection raised during the workshop came from ZBA member Richard Scafidi, who spoke against the idea of eliminating the requirement for businesses to provide parking while maintaining this requirement for residents.
“I think each business should be required to have two spaces,” he said. “Physically, I know some can’t do it, but it should at least be in there so they can show they tried.”
Sturino emphasized that the district was still a work in progress, and promised to keep “an open door and ear to your thoughts” during the process.
• The ZBA began its meeting by thanking William Plum, who recently resigned from the board, for his years of service. Plum was replaced by Austin Zimmer, who was appointed by the village council in December.
“(Plum’s) services will be missed, but at the same time we welcome Austin Zimmer to the board,” said ZBA chairman Michael Curry.