Following yet another round of talks with neighbors along the 500 block of Elgin Avenue, developer Barney O’Reilly is back before the village with a request to construct a grouping of town homes that have already been slapped down by commissioners unwilling to grant him the needed variances to the zoning code.
The proposal from O’Reilly’s company, Cherryfield Properties, which went before the Zoning Board of Appeals Monday, isn’t dramatically different from a plan that was killed in April. O’Reilly is now looking to build a four-unit townhouse at 508 Elgin Ave. and a similarly styled five-unit townhouse at 504 Elgin Ave. That reduces by one the total number of housing units rejected by a split vote of the council in April.
Also notably different from previous drawings is the staggered footprint of the buildings, which is intended to create more green space on the lots.
“This is what the residents want,” O’Reilly said prior to the June 16 meeting. “There’s nine units. They came and said ‘This is what we want. This is the only thing we will support on the site.'”
The zoning board voted unanimously to recommend that village council members approve the project.
When O’Reilly’s residential project goes before the council, it will be the third time that commissioners have been asked to act on the plans.
“I think we’re going to have to rename that project the phoenix,” Village Administrator Mike Sturino said.
In September 2006 the body roundly rejected the development as neighbors denounced what they said was too dense a development for a neighborhood dominated by single-family homes. A slightly smaller version of that plan was nixed by a 3-2 vote in April amidst testimony from nearby residents who spoke both for and against the proposal.
Monday’s zoning board meeting saw only a smattering of testimony. Several neighbors who had opposed previous renderings of the development stood to voice their support.
“I think this has been a perfect compromise,” Kevin Hibbitts of 513 Elgin Ave., said. Hibbitts decried past proposals as placing too great a burden on the neighborhood’s drainage systems.
Linda Marianiello of 505 Elgin Ave. said neighbors are aware of the “financial impossibility” for O’Reilly to further reduce the density of the project and she praised the aesthetic qualities of the proposed townhouses.
Not everyone in the area is on board with the plan, however, and neighbor Charles Woodbury urged the village to take a more thoughtful approach to development.
“I’m looking forward, I hope, to some reasonable and prompt revisions to our current zoning laws,” Woodbury, a resident of 419 Elgin Ave., said.
The density of the multi-unit project has long been the sticking point for neighbors, but at the April council meeting O’Reilly insisted he could not afford to construct anything on the now vacant lots if he couldn’t sell at least 10 units.
On April 11 – three days before the council’s most recent decision – Omni National Bank filed to foreclose on the property after providing Cherryfield Properties with a $576,000 mortgage in September 2006. That loan came due May 1, 2007.
In late December 2005 Cherryfield took out a pair of $576,000 mortgages from Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest to make improvements to the vacant lots. Both loans were to be repaid by Sept. 1, 2006, according to property records on file with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office.
Asked prior to Monday’s zoning board meetings about the foreclosure case pending in Cook County Circuit Court, O’Reilly indicated he’s looking to cut his losses.
“We’re not looking at profitability at the moment,” O’Reilly said. “It’s a non-issue. The property, at the moment, is unbuildable. Something needs to be done with the land.”
Also in September of last year, a Chicago law firm placed a lien against the Elgin Avenue properties claiming it was owed some $3,600 in fees for legal work related to property taxes on the site. Those fees were paid shortly thereafter, according to county records.