Forest Park’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved parking variations which, if also approved by the village council, will allow two condominium conversions to proceed.
The first request came from developer Robert Marani, who is seeking to convert 18 apartments to nine condo units at 7320 Madison St. The lower level of the property at the southeast corner of Circle Avenue and Madison is home to Team Blonde Jewelry, La Piazza Café, and Briolette Beads.
“Before we get started, thanks for bringing it down from 18 units to nine,” said ZBA chairman Michael Curry at the outset of the hearing, hinting at the later unanimous vote in favor of the project.
Marani was granted permission to proceed with the conversions despite the absence of parking spaces for the residents. Typically, developers are required to provide two spaces per unit.
The property is adjacent to a village-operated metered parking lot with 45 spaces. Marani noted that previously, the tenants of the building’s 18 apartments had parked in that lot. He said he intended to purchase parking passes for the condominium residents as well.
Responding to a question from resident Jerry Webster, Marani noted that he is exploring the possibility of purchasing additional nearby land for use as a parking lot.
“I’m in negotiation for parcels on Circle Avenue but I have not yet solidified any contracts,” he said.
The condos will all have two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, and prices will range from $295,000 to $330,000, according to Marani.
The second variation recommended by the ZBA would allow Elgin Street Properties, LLC to convert 18 apartments at 32-38 Elgin Avenue into condominiums.
The property has 18 parking spaces, meaning that one space, rather than the required two spaces, are provided for each unit.
Attorney Eric Miller, representing the developer, noted that the property had been granted a variation in 1965 which allowed a residential use in a district zoned for business. He argued that when this variation was granted, the property’s parking situation was approved in the process, though the issue wasn’t raised at the time.
The property, he noted, had changed hands several times without the parking issue being raised by the village before Elgin Street Properties purchased it last December. Curry reminded Miller that until now, the building housed rental properties, and the change to condos was the reason that this time was different.
“If they were still renting it, they wouldn’t be here right now,” he said.
Miller told the board that the village had already granted the developers a certificate of compliance for the conversion in May. One of the units has since been sold, and 13 more are already under contract.
“They’re way past conversion, they’re practically sold out ” at what point did the village or developer drop the ball,” asked board member Jolyn Crawford.
Building Department Director Michael Boyle acknowledged that the error might have been on the part of the village. “It’s possible that someone from my staff signed [the certificate] based on what they believed to be the case,” he said.
Developer Michael Cronin said that the units would all continue to be one bedroom and one bathroom, with the only work needed being interior renovations. The majority of the units would be occupied by single people, he said, though some couples have signed on.
Jim Lenox, also representing Elgin Street Properties, noted that some of the units would be occupied by elderly people who do not drive and have asked to have their spaces leased out.
“This is a cart before the horse situation and it puts the zoning board in an awkward position…its almost necessary for us to put this through because it was approved by the village,” said board member Al Bucholtz.
In the end, all board members voted in favor of the variance except Richard Scafidi, who abstained.
The ZBA’s recommendations will be sent to the village council for a final vote during an upcoming meeting.