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Townhouse proposal is unacceptable

Dear Mayor Calderone, commissioners, members of the zoning board of appeals and the plan commission:

We, the undersigned, are residents of the 500 block of Elgin and other adjacent streets that will be impacted by the proposed development at 504-508 Elgin Ave. in Forest Park. We believe that our views were not made clear at the most recent meeting of the zoning board of appeals. It is our understanding that an attempt was made to convince ZBA members that practically everyone on our block supports developer Barney O’Reilly’s plans for the above-mentioned property. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we would like to set the record straight.

To be clear, we state our specific objections here:

1. The proposed density of five units per lot is too great and exceeds the legally permissible maximum density of four units per lot.

2. The developer, Mr. O’Reilly, is requesting 10 variances to the Forest Park zoning laws, and we strongly disagree that council should approve them. Residents need more information about the nature of the variances, and how they would affect our quality of life.

3. After a long delay, there seems to be a sudden effort to fast-track the process. This may be to the developer’s advantage, but it does not make sense from the residents’ perspective. For almost two years, we have gone to considerable effort to participate in the process, and we would not like to see Mr. O’Reilly’s plan pushed through rapidly, without adequate time for us to respond.

4. Further, we would like to remind council and the zoning board of appeals that both of these bodies voted to change the zoning in the 400 and 500 blocks of Elgin, and this became effective in 2007. Mr. O’Reilly’s current proposal is not in compliance with the present R2 zoning. We believe that the R2 zoning should be properly enforced by our representatives.

5. Many of us have lived on this relatively quiet residential street for a long time. We value our quality of life, which includes a great feeling of community, a safe haven from the chaos of big city life, adequate on-street parking, and a preponderance of beautiful, vintage single-family and two-family residences.

6. We are concerned not only about the impact of council’s decision on our immediate area, but about its long-term implications for the entire village of Forest Park. Precedents set here could open the door to many more such proposals by developers, all of which would most likely exceed the existing Forest Park zoning laws. We strongly disagree that this is in the best interest of the village.

7. We do not believe that the developer’s profit margin should be the sole criterion upon which council, the ZBA, and the plan commission decide this issue. Rather, we advocate a balanced approach in which the needs of both the developer and the residents are weighed equally.

8. For the past, two years, our neighborhood has been notifying village council and other commissions that draining in the 500 block of Elgin and Marengo is seriously deficient. Many residents’ basements and the alleys already flood. We believe that this concern must be addressed before any plan to further exacerbate this problem is approved.

In conclusion, we respectfully request that Council refrain from making a final decision about Mr. O’Reilly’s plans for 504-508 Elgin at this time. If appropriate, council might consider sending the plans back to the zoning board for further discussion, based upon the new information which has come to light here.

We are willing and able to work with the developer and with all of the residents of the areas impacted by the proposed development at 504-508 Elgin to come up with a plan that everyone can live with. We cannot live with this one.

Mike Garman and Liz Chilsen, Cheri Seley, Julie Herwitt, Lynne Ruch, Franz Vote and Linda Marianiello, Kathy Kucia, Jeff Rudnik, Vivian Adam, Gerhard and Mary Hoffmann, Betty Lucey
Forest Park
Editor’s note: Signatory Mike Garman is a cartoonist for the Forest Park Review.

Controversial vote

I am sure that many people were surprised (maybe shocked is a better word) by my vote at the April 7 planning commission meeting. I voted to approve the site plan for 504-508 Elgin Ave., a project that I have been quite outspoken in my opposition. The developer, Cherryfield Construction, made several alterations to the aesthetics in order to better conform to the surrounding neighborhood, which I was happy with.

The two main sticking points that I have with the project are the front-yard setback and the number of units. The set-back of this project is the same as the condo building to the north, but closer to the street than the two-flat directly to the south. Further down the street there are three more single-family homes, one two-flat and one apartment building. The proposed set-back is consistent with all but one of those properties.

I am still not in favor of the increased density. The developer did not give any reason acceptable to me to grant extra density than is allowed under the current zoning law. Yes, he discussed economic feasibility and cited changes in the real estate market to support that. However, that is not a reason for the village to grant a variance. A developer takes a risk when he/she begins a project. It is not the village’s responsibility to mitigate that risk.

The reason that I still voted in favor of the site plan is because it was made very clear to me prior to the meeting that I was not voting on any zoning issue, such as density. There is a provision in the site plan approval that discusses the “mass and scale” of the development. I interpret this to mean the total square feet of the building, not the number of units. Some may interpret this differently than me, but this is my interpretation.

At the end of the day, I am opposed to the number of units and some other zoning-related aspects of this project, but am in support of the overall design and layout. The zoning board votes on the zoning. The planning commission votes on the site design/layout. The village council votes on both. I am a member of the planning commission and felt a fiduciary responsibility to vote accordingly.

John Plepel
Forest Park

Cost of business

Bars and liquor stores should not blame Mayor Calderone (“Mayor blasts bar owners over fee increase,” March 26). He and the village council are just doing what has to be done.

Things are tough every place and money is hard to come by. Taxes are up every place. So the bars and liquor stores will just have to go with the flow and raise their prices a few cents. People will still buy their liquor and drinks. During prohibition they paid whatever it cost, and they still will.

I don’t think we will see any shortage of customers in the future.

So liquor owners, look at it as doing your part to help Forest Park and the services it provides.

Jim Golden
Forest Park