The case for R-1

There seems to have been a general shift in the debate surrounding the potential rezoning of the 400-500 bocks of Elgin Avenue to R-1. The discussion, I have noticed from numerous discussions with interested parties, citizens, and village officials, has shifted to more of a decision between R-1 and R-2, generally conceding that the current R-3 zoning is inappropriate for the two-block area in question.

There has been further discussion in many circles that there should be another zoning classification that would allow for two-flats, but not townhomes or apartments. While this alternative appears very reasonable and appropriate, not to mention supported by the Comprehensive Plan that suggest five zoning districts rather than the current three, it is not an option village officials have included in the recent petition before the Zoning Board of Appeals. This, of course, brings us back to decision between R-1 and R-2.

The main argument for the higher density R-2 designation is that R-1 will devalue the properties being rezoned. There are basically three property types that are included on these two blocks (excluding the condo building): Single-family homes, two-flat buildings, and a 24-unit apartment building.

The only way that the single-family homes would be devalued is if their land-only value was more than the value of the entire property, including the house. Basing the value of land on the most expensive land purchase in the immediate area (504-508 Elgin Avenue), the upper end of the range is approximately 5 per square foot. For a typical 30 x 160 lot, this equates to 16,000. I can’t think of a single house on either of these two blocks that I wouldn’t purchase tomorrow for that price. Considering that several homes on the block have had, or are in the process of, extensive renovations to update the existing homes, the homeowners don’t seem to think that this is the case either.

The two-flat buildings in the area probably have the strongest argument. If they were to burn down, they couldn’t be rebuilt in the same fashion. There really is no arguing against that fact. It is important to note, however, that issue brought up at the ZBA meeting (i.e. the LaSalle Factors) refers to the current “market value” of the property. If you look around Forest Park, you will see countless non-conforming two-and three-flat properties that have sold in recent months or years. What you will not find is much of any difference between the price of conforming vs. non-conforming properties. What this means is that these properties would not lose value under the proposed zoning change.

In order for someone to sue based on this factor, they would have to prove that there is not a market for non-conforming two-flats in Forest Park, or that typical buyers pay less for two flats that in are in an R-1 districts relative to R-3. Good luck. The argument that the land value of the property, if the building happens to burn down at some point in time, may be valid, but would not likely be a strong legal case.

It would seem that the multi-unit apartment property in the middle of the 500 block may have the most to lose if the block is rezoned. As he said, if 51 percent of his property is burnt down, he will not be able to rebuild it as it is. What is important to note is that he can’t do that anyway. R-3 only allows for 16 units on a parcel of his size (50 percent more than he currently has). Further, R-2 does not allow for apartment buildings at all (townhomes, yes, but not apartment buildings). Whether these risks would be considered by a new buyer is hard to say. There are not as many apartment buildings that sell compared to two-flats. The more important question is whether this is the type of development we want to allow on our residential streets going forward. I would have say that, based on input from almost every person I have spoken to regarding this issue, the answer would be a resounding “No.”

The townhome vs. apartment building issue is really the only major difference between R-2 and R-3, aside from some height and setback restrictions. When it comes to townhomes, both classifications allow for the same density (one unit per 2,000 square feet). Put two 50 x 160 lots together, as Cherryfield has done, and you can build eight units. I think that is more density than most residents want on their residential streets. Making the problem worse is that developers believe this is only a starting point for negotiations with the village, as evidenced by Cherryfield’s recent request to build 12 units on the now-famous 504-508 Elgin Avenue site (50 percent more than zoning allows, not to mention six other variances under their petition).

So what is the bottom line? Well, it seems to me that while the R-1 zoning classification would limit the development potential of current residents and future investors, it most closely mirrors the land use preferences of the village’s residents, without unduly devaluing the properties of current residents and homeowners. Is there theoretically a better solution, such as “R-1.5?” Probably. But we don’t have that option before us right now. The only changes we have to choose from are R-1 and R-2. I think that R-1 is better for the community as a whole.

John Plepel
Elgin Ave. resident

Thanks for continuing No Gloves tradition

On behalf of the Board of Park Commissioners of the Park District of Forest Park, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank and acknowledge that tremendous group of individuals who helped make the 38th Annual Forest Park Invitational Softball Tournament a huge success. This year we had to endure brutally hot weather with temperatures in the ’90’s all four days.

Special thanks to Park District Commissioners Joe Byrnes, Howard “Bud” Boy, Mike Espinosa, Cathy McDermott and Roy Sansone for their continued support in keeping the tradition of this most prestigious 16-inch softball tournament alive for all these years. They, along with our great recreation, maintenance, concession and office staff, put in countless hours of work each year for this tournament. The tournament is a “must-see” for any serious fan or player of Chicagoland’s game” and we are proud that the tradition continues.

Many thanks to the players, team sponsors, umpires, scorekeepers, announcers, grounds crew and to Mr. Stats, tournament statistician, for their participation in this year’s tournament. I would also like to thank the fans who came out in record numbers, year after year, to enjoy the games. For all of you who had to deal with the extremely hot weather, I know you went beyond the call of duty this year.

Thanks to Burke Beverage and the Miller Brewing Company for their 20th year as tournament co-sponsors. We would also like to thank the Forest Park Review for once again publishing the official program and Wibert Burial Vault for the use of their tents each year for this and all of our special events, as well as Orthosport and the Village of Forest Park for the use of their parking facilities. Our appreciation is also extended to Mayor Anthony Calderone, the Village Council, and the Police and Fire Departments for their continued support.

Special thanks to that tremendous group of volunteers who come forward each year to make the food and the concessions operation second to none. It would be impossible to list all of them in this letter, but I just wanted to publicly say that without these volunteers, we certainly couldn’t do it alone. Thank you all once again for giving your time for the enjoyment of others. You’re the best.

I would also like to take the opportunity to publicly thank the Board of Park Commissioners for dedicating this year’s tournament in my honor. This was the 33rd and final year I have had the privilege of being involved with one of our community’s most popular special events. I have formed many special friendships with players, fans and volunteers throughout the years and I will cherish those friendships and memories for years to come.

David Novak
Director, Park District of Forest Park

Elected officials should serve everyone

In an article in the Review from August 2 there was a comment made by one of the elected officials that I found disturbing. It seems he did not feel the e-mail he received was important because of his opinion of the sender.

The elected officials in this village are supposed to serve everyone regardless of their feelings toward any individual. I wish that this was the only time I had heard such a comment, but it is not. At a council meeting two years ago another elected official stated that if people had not voted for him, they should not expect anything from him.

Jerry Webster

CUinFP campaign finance pledge

At our July meeting, Citizens United in Forest Park unanimously adopted a campaign finance pledge for local candidates seeking office in the 2007 elections. We believe the pledge balances the interests of the citizens of Forest Park, candidates for office and campaign contributors. Most importantly, the pledge creates a model for funding campaigns that reduces the potential for perceived or real conflicts of interest in the decisions that local elected officials make – decisions that can dramatically affect our quality of life. The overall focus of this pledge is to keep local elections “local.”

As candidates become known to us, we will contact them to answer any questions they have and ask them to sign the pledge.

As a candidate for office in the Village of Forest Park, I promise to follow the limits outlined below:

“Business” includes but is not limited to sole proprietorships, corporations, limited liability companies, not-for-profit organizations and any subsidiaries, parent companies or otherwise affiliated companies and any of their employees, officers, directors and partners.

“Reporting Year” – is from July 1 to June 30 of each year.

“Seeking to do business” means (1) within the past six months taking any action to obtain a contract or business from the Village of Forest Park, when, if such action were successful, it would result in the business doing business with the Village and (2) the contract or business sought has not been awarded to any business.

I, or any person on my behalf, will not, at any time, solicit campaign contributions from individuals employed by the Village of Forest Park.

I, or any person on my behalf, will not accept campaign contributions in excess of 00.00 from individuals employed by the Village of Forest Park during any reporting year.

I, or any person on my behalf, will not accept campaign contributions in excess of 00 from any business that does business or that seeks to do business with the Village of Forest Park during any reporting year. This limitation applies to all owners, officers and directors of such business, as well as all employees of such business if such employee is reimbursed for such contribution by the business, its owners, officers or directors and all such contributions shall be taken in the aggregate.

I, or any person on my behalf, will not accept campaign contributions from any applicant for a zoning variance or the applicant’s owners, officers, directors, managers, members or employees, within 12 months of taking action on such zoning application, unless such applicant is a resident of Forest Park.

I, or any person on my behalf, will not accept campaign contributions in excess of 00 from any individual, business or its owners, officers, directors, managers, members or employees of such business, which is located outside the village of Forest Park.

Steven Backman