First reported 5/11/2010 4:18 p.m.

A decision on Team Blonde’s petition to legalize its sideline spa services has finally been reached. At the village council meeting Monday night, the long-playing and nerve-triggering story of zoning-code enforcement involving a popular Madison Street boutique came to an official close.

By a unanimous vote, commissioners approved an amendment that allows back-of-the-shop facials, massages, hairdressing and nail treatments at 7442 Madison, home of the hip, eco-friendly clothing and jewelry shop known as Team Blonde, putting them in compliance with village code. Because of an ordinance that mandated 500 feet between businesses that offer personal grooming services, Team Blonde did not conform with zoning for the downtown business district.

In listing four conditions that define and govern a so-called hybrid business (mostly goods, some services), the amendment puts Team Blonde in a category that’s not subject to the 500-foot rule.

The latest discussion on the matter – which intensified in zoning board meetings over the last two months – began in September, when Tim Gillian stepped into the village administrator’s post and followed up with Team Blonde’s owners about the violation.

“Over 11 years here, I’ve never been inundated with so much on one matter,” Commissioner Mark Hosty said.

Mayor Tony Calderone agreed.

“This has gone on long enough. And it’s been an emotional matter for our business community. The competition is lined up here in the front, and this is a very touchy situation.”

Seated in the front row were David Riddle and Lee Conte, owners of Chi Balancing Center; Sandra Capizzi, owner of Skin Care Company, and Sara Alvarado, a Skin Care Company aesthetician who lives in Forest Park; and Vicky and Vincent Bertuca, owners of Bertuca Salon. Capizzi said in a call after the meeting that Nelson Amir of Macdaddy salon, who had been at the zoning board meetings, planned to be at the council meeting as well but couldn’t attend because of an illness in his family.

“Sticking a Band-Aid on this situation with an approval of this text amendment will only leave a major wound to fester in the community. I hope you will by now, for the sake of all of us working together as a community, lay this situation to rest with five No votes.”

That’s the closing paragraph in a 2,334-word letter e-mailed to the mayor and all commissioners Friday and also hand-delivered that day to village hall by Riddle, who with his wife Conte, owns Chi Balancing Center, a shiatsu massage business at 7249 Madison.

At the last zoning board meeting on April 19, an emotional Conte came forward to say that former Village Administrator Mike Sturino had threatened to shut down businesses that continued to question the zoning violation. Capizzi, owner of Skin Care Company, the business with which Chi Balancing Center shares space as an independent contractor, later confirmed for the Review that she had gotten a call from her landlord, prompted by a call from Sturino urging a resolution.

As reported in last week’s paper, Sturino called the Review to say he had simply made a call to Stacy Taxman, whose company manages the building known as Madison Common, asking for peace in the neighborhood. Both Sturino and Taxman have told the Review that no specifics were ever discussed.

“There’s been a plethora of innuendo,” Calderone told the council in prefacing the discussion. “Who knows who? Who’s tied in with the village? Threats from Mike Sturino? I don’t know if Mike Sturino threatened anybody. It really doesn’t matter.

“I don’t think the business community should feel they can’t trust their local government. If anyone is acting out of character, I want to hear about it. That’s an open invitation. All things need to be investigated to get to the facts.”

Capizzi said in a phone call after the meeting that the mayor’s comment was particularly disturbing.

“I felt like standing up and saying, ‘Hey, ask me and I’ll tell you the truth,” Capizzi said.

In an e-mail Tuesday morning, Riddle echoed concern over the mayor’s comments.

“It was no surprise to me Mayor Calderone would gloss over the threat and lecture us on our fight against another business, missing the point that we wanted the law upheld. Then he had the audacity to say last night that people in Forest Park should go to him with their problems,” Riddle wrote. “Although he claimed he was not aware of when this zoning issue started, he was our main contact person back in May-August ’07. Back then, he said he was ‘working on it.’

“We were never in contact with Mr. Sturino. A message from us regarding the zoning issue had again been left on Mayor Calderone’s voicemail the morning Ms. Capizzi received the phone call from the landlord. After that phone call, we did not feel confident contacting the mayor or village about anything.”

In a separate e-mail Tuesday morning, Conte referred to a generally shared impression of the process: “We knew before we started that this was a ‘done deal,’ but we felt it was important for the business owners and people of Forest Park to know the truth.”

Vance and Ertel, the two Oak Park women who own Team Blonde, have become cheerleaders for destination shopping in Forest Park. Vance is a former president of the Chamber of Commerce. Ertel, an accountant, is active in the Madison Street business owners association. Even those who oppose Vance and Ertel’s push to offer specialty services commend their success as magnetic retailers of specialty goods.

“We love having our business in Forest Park,” Vance told the council during the public comment portion of the meeting. “Both Jayne and I have great pride in this area and we hope to remain here for many years.”

By e-mail Tuesday morning, Vance wrote that she and everyone at Team Blonde were gratified by the council’s unanimous vote.

“We do now, as we always have, choose to adopt an abundance mentality, meaning that there is plenty of business available for all of us. Hopefully, now we can all focus our attention on growing our businesses and further bolstering our great business district.”

What was approved

“Personal grooming services, provided that no such business is located within five hundred feet (500′) of another business providing personal grooming services …, except that the 500′ separation shall not be required if personal grooming service is conducted in addition to a permitted retail store, downtown business district, in compliance with all the following requirements:

“The personal grooming services and the retail store must be under the same property and business ownership.

“The combined spaces for the retail store and the personal grooming business may not be greater than 3,750 square feet.

“A minimum of 1,600 square feet must be solely dedicated to retail sales.

“No part of the personal grooming service may be located within 60 feet of the Madison Street right-of-way.”

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