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It has been almost a year since Amy Perry’s rental property at 417 Circle Ave. was destroyed in a fire. In the months that followed, Perry went head-to-head with local officials over whether she would be allowed to reconstruct her two-flat or be forced to tear it down and erect a single-family home. The zoning codes that put her and the village in these most uncomfortable roles were, for several months anyway, the focus of a heated debate on how to square property rights with the need to control development.

We’re sorry to hear, and the village should be embarrassed to say it, that Forest Park is no closer to resolving the issues surrounding legal non-conforming properties like Perry’s, of which there are literally hundreds. And now, almost a year later, another multi-family home tucked into a single-family neighborhood has burned. A ruling hasn’t been made yet as to whether this recent fire might force the property owners to tear down their rental property.

Perry was ultimately allowed to keep her two-flat, thanks largely to a loophole in the zoning codes discovered during her appeal of the initial ruling that she would have to demolish the structure.

Instead of addressing these issues in the wake of Perry’s battle, the village has instead spent the last few months streamlining other sections of the zoning code in the interest of a more user-friendly approvals process. Though worthwhile, these changes do nothing to address the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

Parking program worthy of support

The idea that various community members would pitch in to help solve a problem is fantastic, and is what makes the efforts of an ad hoc group grappling with a parking shortage along Madison Street worthwhile. Born out of the overwhelming distaste this village expressed over a plan to pave over residential properties, the parking committee is coming up with ways to more efficiently manage the parking spaces that exist. Ultimately, this group may tackle the question of how to create new spaces, but for the time being efforts are focused on using what’s available.

Its first major effort is underway, but so far has met with only a mediocre amount of success.

Members of this group are trying to get employees along Madison Street to park their vehicles on the residential streets just south of the business corridor. In theory, this could free more than 100 parking spaces for customers. Part of what we like about this program–that it’s not punitive–is also why it hasn’t been a huge success, yet.

With a stronger campaign to spur participation, we’re entirely optimistic that this program can succeed. Given that business owners have the holiday shopping season to look forward to, it makes sense that many more employers will get on board and ask their employees to make way for the customers. And if the rewards of this program aren’t incentive enough, just remember that the bulldozers are only a phone call away.