We’ll start with this premise. Affordable housing for seniors is a good thing. It’s good for seniors with limited resources who desire to live locally and remain independent. It’s good for Forest Park to have a wide range of housing options. Affordable apartments for elders would be a good addition to our housing stock. Finally, we think a version of the project proposed on Harrison Street would be good for the neighborhood – among other benefits, ridding it of a long-worrisome restaurant/bar use.
The question, after the Plan Commission last week unanimously rejected the plans of the 7400-7412 Harrison Street Properties LLC, is how to accomplish the goal.
While the village council has the final say on this project and will take up the issue at a meeting in May, we don’t suggest that its members should overrule the Plan Commission and grant an approval. The work of the Plan Commission on this matter was solid and thoughtful. And we agree with Steve Bitter, the commission’s chair, who said that a mid-May deadline for the developers to apply for state tax credits added an uncomfortable time pressure for a decision.
Rather, we’d suggest the village council clearly signal its broad support for an affordable senior apartment project on this site and charge the village administrator with shepherding a review of the plans through a series of public forums and bodies in the coming months.
The developers, acting in a responsible and positive manner, have already suggested aiming a new proposal at the same state deadline only one year hence. That delay will allow time for productive discussions with zoning and plan commission members, with neighbors, with seniors to craft a still-stronger proposal.
The village council, though, is charged with taking a wider view and we believe they will see the broader benefit of actively working toward a positive solution that respects the Master Plan, the concerns of neighbors and the needs of our seniors.