The village’s Plan Commission spent much of its Thursday night meeting, it’s first since October, debating a proposed site plan for an addition to Consolidated Auto, which moved to 1045 Desplaines Ave. from Oak Park in 2005.
Last week, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) recommended approval of a variation allowing the business to construct the addition, which would be used for temporary storage of cars prior to and shortly after being repaired. Consolidated Auto would need to cut its available parking down to 64 spaces to build the addition.
The addition, which would measure 13,028 square feet, was required to come before the Plan Commission as well since it would increase the size of the building by over 25 percent.
Though architect John Schiess, who has represented the business in both hearings, had a relatively easy time getting his plan through the ZBA, the Plan Commission proved more challenging.
“Buildings last a lot longer than businesses…5-10 years from now (if it changes hands) what will this be used for?” asked board member Martin Tellalian, who eventually cast the one vote opposing the plan. He suggested scaling down the size of the addition to create more space for parking.
“What we have here is a specific application for a specific use…what happens later is the burden of another applicant,” responded Schiess.
Board member William Kirchner disagreed, noting that a substantial burden would be left on the village if the site was left as an undesirable space for other businesses due to inadequate parking.
Forest Park planning consultant Jo Ellen Charlton said that while Consolidated Auto’s plans call for about two parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, retail and office facilities normally prefer to have four to five spaces per 1,000 square feet.
She noted, however, that future applicants with different uses in mind for the property would have to come back before the village with their plans, as the variation requested would only apply to one specific use.
Still, the board was skeptical. “Once we get to the next tenant we’re past the problem,” said board member Tim Condon. “It’s the couple years that it’ll be off the tax rolls because no one is going to want it (that concern me).”
After about an hour of discussion, the board began leaning towards approving the request.
“These guys are here, they’re paying taxes, and they’ve got a thriving business ” I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt,” said Condon. “What you’re asking is pushing it, but it’s reasonable enough. It’s worth that risk to allow the business to grow.”
The site plan was approved by a 4-1 vote with a provision requiring the business to add some trees to the east of the parking area on the south side of the business, and will go before the village council for final approval.
Commission delays cafe de Luca decision
The commission also heard from caffe de Luca owner Art Sundry, whose request to install a dual refrigerator and freezer unit in the rear of the restaurant at 7427 Madison St. was approved by the ZBA in a 4-3 vote last week.
Though Sundry is requesting variances allowing him to eliminate the two parking spots he is required to have through the village’s zoning code, the major issue of contention has been the noise that would be created by the rear cooler.
Gloria Backman, who lives across the alley from the restaurant and objected to Sundry’s plans at the ZBA meeting, stated that the noise would be particularly bothersome during the summer when she spends much of her time in her yard and the cooler would be running at full blast.
Sundry argued that the cooler would produce only slightly more noise than the average house, citing information on decibel levels from a recent Chicago Tribune story. He said the cooler would be separated from the restaurant’s residential neighbors by the rear alley as well as their backyards, and noted that the noise would be further reduced by the noise reduction screen that the ZBA required he install before approving his request.
Sundry also noted that the unit would roughly double the restaurant’s storage capacity and cut down on noise and traffic created by delivery trucks in the alley.
The board eventually agreed to Condon’s request that they hold off on voting until they receive a professional opinion that would help them quantify the amount of noise the unit would produce.
The board will continue discussing Sundry’s request at it next meeting on March 6.