Village officials are unsure how the discrepancy occurred, but technically speaking, more than 55 percent of the housing stock in Forest Park does not comply with zoning laws.
Multi-family apartment buildings with more than two units were eliminated from the local ordinance as a permitted use in the late 1980s, according to Village Administrator Michael Sturino. It’s unclear whether this omission was intentional or accidental, Sturino said, but administrators are assuring property owners they have nothing to worry about.
“At some point it’s going to have to go back on the books,” Sturino said.
A worst case scenario, however, is that a building with more than two apartments would be destroyed by a fire before an ordinance permitting such structures is adopted.
Mike Boyle, director of the Department of Public Health and Safety, said the zoning board will likely address the matter in mid-October.
“It seems odd that if a building burned down today they wouldn’t be able to rebuild, but that is the position we’re taking today,” Sturino said.
Patrick Cerceo’s company, Circle Property Management, owns roughly 60 rental units in Forest Park. Cerceo said the discrepancy could make insurance companies and financial lenders hesitant to get involved in a project that isn’t technically permitted under the zoning laws.
“I think this is all a big mess that needs to be straightened out,” Cerceo said.
Bill Planek of Greenplan Management is less concerned though.
Planek’s company owns rental properties in Forest Park and neighboring Oak Park. He agreed that lenders may not want to risk losing their collateral in fronting the money for a nonconforming structure, but any new construction project would need approval from the village anyway.
“I don’t think it’s unusual,” Planek said.
Whether former village officials intended to strike multi-family units as a permitted use will determine the process for adopting an amendment. If Sturino, Boyle and others investigating the history of the ordinance find it was intentional, public hearings will need to be held. If it’s simply a transcription error, the zoning board can adopt an ordinance permitting multi-family units without a public hearing, Sturino said.