Responding to pressure from business owners who don’t want to see another vacant storefront, village council members voted Monday to do whatever was necessary to keep a boutique pet business at the corner of Circle and Madison.
The Spot, which opened in January, has faced an uphill battle since being handed a permit to run an upscale kennel and doggie daycare at 7324 Madison. Shortly after opening her doors, owner Peggy Bernar was notified by the Department of Public Health and Safety that her business license was signed with the understanding that retail would be her primary focus and that the boarding of animals was to be ancillary. The director of that department, Mike Boyle, would later tell the zoning board he had been duped.
Within the business district where Bernar’s shop is, animal boarding was not allowed.
“I believe the stakeholders have once again spoken,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said during the March 9 meeting in support of allowing The Spot to remain. “It seems like the business community is OK with it.”
Council members voted unanimously to amend the zoning for the neighborhood, but Commissioner Marty Tellalian voted against granting Bernar a permit for her business. Too many of the terms used in describing Bernar’s operation are vague, said Tellalian, which puts the village at the mercy of the business owner in guaranteeing that conditions are met.
“I want to welcome them as well,” Tellalian said, “but you’re just assuming their business model will work.”
Because the zoning regulations for the area were created several years ago with input from business owners, Calderone said it’s reasonable to amend those guidelines if the demand is there. Several neighboring business owners attended Monday’s council meeting, including Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development. Kokenes did not address the council, but in recent weeks she and others in the chamber have lobbied on Bernar’s behalf.
Bernar, too, was in the audience for the council’s vote, but did not speak.
At a zoning board meeting last month, she and a handful of supporters spoke at length that her intent is to run a clean, quiet business that fits the trendy shopping district.
She also denied that she was anything but forthright in applying for a business license, and blamed Boyle’s confusion on a miscommunication.
“I said everything at the ZBA,” Bernar said following Monday’s vote. “I can’t address it anymore.”
Bernar, a Berwyn resident, had said she would move her business elsewhere in Illinois if she were forced to close in Forest Park. She declined to comment Monday on whether she had taken any steps to that end in anticipation of the council voting her application down.
According to the ordinances adopted by the council, Bernar must reapply for a business license so that municipal records more accurately reflect the scope of her operation. Also, overnight boarding is limited to 15 dogs at a time.
The Spot is next to a restaurant. Upstairs from the business are several residential condominiums.