Mayor Anthony Calderone announced at Monday’s village council meeting that the village is set to receive a $300,000 state grant to held fund a future parking structure to serve its downtown area.

The grant money, Calderone said, was secured through the office of Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th) and will come from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity to support the village’s efforts in further expanding economic development and restoring their business district.” said Lightford. “My hope is that this grant will allow residents to have ample parking in a safe environment and also allow residents outside of Forest Park to enjoy the town.”

A firm hired by the village is in the midst of a study to determine the extent of the need for parking along Madison Street. R.H. Anderson and Associates has begun collecting data regarding the current parking situation, but was asked by the village’s Business Improvement District (BID) committee to hold off on the remainder of the study until warmer weather allows the opportunity for a more realistic look.

The firm is being paid $19,000 to analyze the area’s parking needs and propose a solution, which could be anything from a parking garage to more of the currently existing municipal parking lots.

Though the $300,000 grant will provide a significant boost to the $140,000 per year that the village sets aside for a downtown parking solution, more funding will likely be needed before the project can become a reality.

Still, Calderone said, “This gives us the extra money necessary to take a pragmatic approach.”

In December, Matt Gauntt of R.H. Anderson estimated that a ground level lot would cost between $1,700 and $3,500 per space, while an above ground structure would cost between $7,500 and $18,000 per space. A subsurface structure, he said, typically costs $20,000 to $40,000 per space to build. This would place the cost of an above ground garage with 200 spaces at a minimum of $1.5 million, not to mention staffing, maintenance, and any additional aesthetic improvements.

Several funding options have been floated by the BID including requiring businesses to contribute to the fund in lieu of existing parking requirements and selling some parking spaces to permanent owners, though the committee is awaiting R.H. Anderson’s research before making any recommendations.

The Madison Street parking situation has led to problems for both residents and businesses, with one common complaint being that residential side streets are cluttered by shoppers and employees of the street’s businesses. This week, a shortage of parking was named as one of the factors that led to Circle Video’s decision to go out of business.

French Market approved through 2013

The village council approved an agreement with the company Bensidoun USA to host a French Market each year through 2013. The market will begin operating on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in mid-May this year and in late April in future years, and will run through October 31 at the latest.

The market will be operated in the village-owned parking lot at Circle Avenue and Madison Street.

At the request of Commissioner Terry Steinbach, the council agreed to amend the ordinance approving the contract to include a $5,000 cap on the village’s expenses this year, though the cap may be adjusted in future years. The amendment passed with a 3-2 vote, with Calderone and Commissioner Mark Hosty voting in opposition.

The village held a successful French Market in 2003, but temporarily discontinued the market after a disappointing 2004 season. Bensidoun has agreed to enhance marketing and replace its local representative for the future markets.

caffe De Luca cooler moved to roof

The village council voted 4-1 to allow caffe De Luca owner Art Sundry to install a dual refrigerator and freezer unit at his 7427 Madison Street restaurant.

Sundry had originally planned to install the unit in the rear of his restaurant, and had requested a variation from the requirement to maintain two parking spaces in order to do so. Last week, however, he wrote a letter to the village requesting that he be allowed to place the unit on the roof instead.

“I am uncomfortable with potentially being the guinea pig for a sound ordinance,” he wrote. The Plan Commission had previously recommended that the council name a maximum decibel level that the units would be permitted to produce in response to concerns from residents about potential noise issues.

The village currently has no regulations in its zoning code concerning noise production.

The idea of installing the unit on the roof had come up before, but Sundry had said that this option would make the cooler less accessible and more expensive to maintain.

He had instead agreed to include a parapet wall and a sound absorption wall with the unit, which he will no longer be required to do.

A motion by Hosty to repeal the requirement that the cooler go on the roof as well as a provision preventing Sundry or subsequent owners from filing formal objections to proposed funding mechanisms adopted by the village for downtown parking improvements was not seconded. A motion by Commissioner Patrick Doolin to require Sundry to purchase 10 spaces in municipal lots for his employees was voted down in a 2-3 vote.