Back in January we were quick to criticize a commissioner and the building department for what seemed like a sloppy, half-hearted response to the discovery that local regulations were skirted when the commissioner renovated his single-family home. Embarrassingly enough, it happened again – this time in a case involving the commissioner who oversees the department responsible for enforcing these rules.
This time around, after breaking the story about the second incident, we’ve held off condemning anyone. Actually, what we’ve been waiting for is some kind of response from the municipality, the mayor or other council members. There’s been nothing.
Here’s the problem: Two commissioners who absolutely know better were caught breaking rules that the rest of Forest Park have to follow. The village’s zoning and permitting guidelines are suspect as is, so when taxpayers hear that the people in charge can’t – or won’t – follow the rules, it becomes a question of fairness. The public deserves to know whether department heads are reluctant to enforce the rules when the rule breaker sits on the village council.
As for the latest infraction and the explanations offered, we’re not buying.
Commissioner Mike Curry knows better than most that Forest Park has a goofy, confusing set of zoning regulations that need to be changed. He was chairman of the zoning board of appeals before winning a council seat in 2007. His zoning experience was central to his campaign, and when department duties were divvied up he pushed hard to oversee the Department of Public Health and Safety.
When Curry bought his home at 1510 Marengo, it came with the nebulous title of “legal non-conforming.” Like too many homeowners in Forest Park, Curry has to jump through several sets of hoops before he can improve the property. It’s all thanks to a zoning code that makes little sense, but one that he has studied. That Curry claims he was not aware of the restrictions on his property is entirely and utterly ridiculous. He would have asked that question before he bought it.
Curry deserves some credit for expressing remorse over the whole thing, but his initial reaction to a reporter’s inquiry was indignation. Remorse came later.
The other council scofflaw is Commissioner Mark Hosty, who was in charge of the department before Curry. Like any homeowner, Hosty should have checked with the building department before handing over his plans to the contractor.
Both of these violations occurred in late 2008. Hosty has since received all the after-the-fact approvals, and it appears Curry will be granted the same. Neither of these projects would have been rejected had the commissioners gone through the appropriate channels, and as distasteful as these incidents have been, the late approvals should be granted.
What remains unresolved, however, is some assurance that this won’t happen again. Perhaps it won’t merely because we are running out of commissioners. But Forest Park needs to demonstrate to its residents that the rules will apply to everyone. So far, that has not been the case.