At a hearing Monday to determine whether a single-family home should be given an exception to a village zoning code, the head of the building department recommended that the property owner be allowed to construct a new dormer that otherwise would not be permitted.
Such approvals are typical in Forest Park, according to Mike Boyle, director of the Department of Public Health and Safety, and the work should not create any hardship for neighbors. In this case, however, the work was completed weeks ago without the proper permits-and the property owner is an elected official.
Commissioner Mark Hosty hired a contractor in late 2008 to renovate his family’s new home at 7419 Warren. That contractor, Cherryfield Development, performed work that went beyond the scope of a Sept. 19 permit issued by Boyle’s office. Cherryfield then bailed on the project before it was finished.
Hosty has claimed that he was out of town and knew nothing of the contractor’s wrongdoings. Once he learned that the permitting process had been ignored, said Hosty, he contacted Boyle to see what corrective steps were needed. Documents generated in Boyle’s office and provided to the Review by Hosty reveal a series of inspections and after-the-fact permit applications intended to document all of the improvements made to the home.
Hosty’s Jan. 5 hearing came at the end of what Boyle said has been an effort to correct the errors of the missing contractor. Normally, such a request for relief from the village’s zoning codes precedes the issuance of any permits or the start of any construction.
Many of the documents purported to right those mistakes, however, are dated in mid December, some two months after Hosty said he contacted the village with his concerns. Boyle acknowledged that the paper trail is difficult to follow, but denied that any favoritism has been shown to the commissioner. One of Hosty’s colleagues on the village council, Commissioner Mike Curry, oversees Boyle’s office and Curry has made it clear that the department is to work with people who “are trying to do the right thing,” said Boyle.
“Mark is also a resident of this town,” Boyle said in a December interview. “If we have a resident who comes to us and says, ‘How do I do it right,’ and we get it right, we move forward.”
According to Boyle and Hosty, those records also indicate that the work done at the home-both by Cherryfield and later by Hosty-is of good quality and does not create a safety hazard. It is unlikely that Hosty will be penalized, said Boyle.
The issues surrounding Hosty’s renovation were first made public by one of the commissioner’s new neighbors. Steve Backman, a government watchdog whose relationship with Hosty is difficult at best, said he and his wife took photos of the home as evidence of possible ordinance violations. Backman posted the photos online, prompting Hosty to file a trespassing complaint against Backman with local police. Backman has denied any wrongdoing and has a Feb. 4 hearing on the citation.
At the start of Hosty’s administrative hearing, tempers flared as Backman attempted to position a video camera to document the discussion. Boyle yelled first at Backman, chastising him for speaking out of turn, and then admonished the half-dozen audience members who came to listen to the proceedings.
“I am not part of your game,” Boyle shouted.
Several of those in attendance have been critical of local government, occasionally locking horns with both Hosty and Boyle.
During the hearing, Backman and his wife Gloria both asked for clarification of the village’s permitting and inspection process, alleging that Hosty has received favorable treatment. “Some people jump through hoops,” Gloria Backman said, while the commissioner appears to have avoided such hardships despite acknowledging that his property was in violation of local ordinances.
“It’s not smelling good,” Gloria Backman said.
Administrative hearings were established in 2007 as a way to unclog the zoning board’s calendar of more routine matters. Hosty’s Monday evening hearing lasted only 12 minutes.
Boyle’s recommendation to approve the variance allowing Hosty’s dormer will be taken up by the village council Jan. 12.
Meanwhile, Hosty has joined a growing list of civil plaintiffs trying to recoup money allegedly owed them by Cherryfield. On Dec. 18 Hosty filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court seeking $15,000.