The issue of the run amuck expansion of Gaetano’s restaurant is not, to us, so much a matter of zoning as it is of building codes. We get to this place by allowing that the beer garden cum dining room is in absolute violation of Forest Park’s zoning codes. That means the zoning board was altogether within its rights recently to recommend to the village council against allowing a retroactive variance.
For reasons we understand, though, the village council is on its way to disregarding the zoning board and granting the variances on setbacks that will make Gaetano’s where-the-hell-did-this-thing-come-from addition legal in terms of zoning.
Soon we’ll find out if this coming zoning approval is just a necessary first step toward substantive work to solve the building code failings of this addition. Or if, alternatively, it is the final step toward greasing the wheels for an occupancy permit and Friday night crowds in a badly flawed, cut-rate structure.
As we said, we understand the impulse to find a solution to this parentless debacle. Gaetano’s is a valuable business asset to Forest Park. Mr. DiBenedetto is a fabulous chef and a very nice guy. That said, it seems this addition was built on an inadequate foundation. There are issues with its heating, sprinklers, etc. We’re not talking about not liking the aesthetics here.
Where, we wonder, is the promised package of architectural/structural fixes promised to the village by Gaetano’s owner? Once the zoning matter is smoothed, how tough will Village Administrator Tim Gillian be in forcing structural fixes?
Plenty tough is our expectation. And that seems a fair expectation based on Gillian’s seeming determination to make this mess right.
Overall, we’re tired of Forest Park’s aversion to following zoning rules and its elected officials’ determination to never point fingers or force accountability. Even last week, Commissioner Mark Hosty, himself no stranger to zoning controversy, told the council, “I’m not looking to be penalizing. I want to see a business move on. I want to put all this behind us.” Well Kumbaya, Commissioner. Instead of putting this behind us, we’d suggest a focus on learning from our mistakes. It is a much healthier approach in the long run.