When council members are asked to vote this month on a proposal to erect neighboring townhouses in the 500 block of Elgin Avenue, they’ll be presented with plenty of baggage to go along with the actual plans.
Developer Barney O’Reilly will bring a bundle of requests that he be forgiven for veering outside the accepted building standards. Handfuls of voters will likely come to voice varying degrees of approval and disdain. There’s also the history of a 2006 vote on this project and the lingering promise of revisions to the zoning code.
On April 14, council members are expected to act on a pitch that has seen its ups and downs over the course of two years from O’Reilly’s construction company, Cherryfield Development. The finished product is bigger than what was rejected by the council in September 2006, but now has the support of a large contingent of neighbors who live mostly in nearby single-family homes. The two structures proposed for 504 and 508 Elgin Ave. also rely on a total of 10 variances to the zoning code, a request that was entirely absent in 2006.
“I don’t think you should look just at the number of variances,” Commissioner Mike Curry said of the upcoming vote. “I think you need to look at the project. Look at the Roos project.”
Curry is readily familiar with the history of O’Reilly’s proposed townhouse project, having served on the zoning board of appeals when the original plans wound their way through village hall two years ago. If memory serves, said Curry, the unveiling brought dozens of people to the meeting and the debate lasted until the early morning.
“There were probably 30 to 50 people there that night,” Curry said.
A 4-1 council decision in 2006 not to approve O’Reilly’s project set the stage for a courthouse battle that never materialized. Instead, O’Reilly began meeting regularly with neighborhood residents to tweak the project and make it more palatable. Front porches and a gabled roofline facing Elgin Avenue are the aesthetic trademarks of those talks.
“Barney O’Reilly is a pretty good person who builds quality,” Commissioner Rory Hoskins said. “I’m inclined to look at his project favorably.”
The zoning board voted 5-2 last month to recommend that commissioners give site-plan approval to O’Reilly’s townhouses. The planning commission is also expected to make its recommendation in time for the April 14 council meeting, according to Village Administrator Mike Sturino.
Commissioner Marty Tellalian, a former member of the planning commission who attended the March 18 zoning board meeting, rejected several arguments heard there to support the project. Currently, the proposed building sites are vacant. Threats that a souring economy might prolong that condition are invalid, said Tellalian.
“I am inclined against granting variances [to the zoning code],” Tellalian said.
Casting the lone vote in favor of the plan more than a year ago was Commissioner Mark Hosty, who will get another chance to weigh in this month. Hosty did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Mayor Anthony Calderone, also present for the 2006 vote, could not be reached for comment.
“All things being equal, you have to consider the neighbors’ input and how they feel, because they’re the ones directly affected,” Curry said.