A new three-story building proposed for the vacant lot at 7228 Madison St. has stalled because the developer is balking at a village request that he pay to repave 125 feet of village-owned alley behind the building.

Dan Moroney, of Oak Park, bought the bank-owned property for $225,000 in December 2012, and planned new construction of an 11,000-square-foot building with retail on the ground floor and four apartments above. 

“I used 7412 Madison St. as a model, the cigar shop building,” Moroney said. The building will feature a retail commercial space of 3,500 square feet on the first floor and four apartments above. The design features a brick face with a decorative building-top cornice. 

Moroney has been trying to get started on the building since last summer. 

He met with the Plan Commission on Monday to ask for permission to continue with the project and try to figure out who will pay for the village to replace the alley.

Moroney said he submitted plans to build in July but was surprised when the village objected to his plan for storm runoff. He proposed running a pipe under the alley for 125 feet to hook up to the appropriate storm sewer on Elgin Avenue. But the village countered that the alley was not in good enough shape to run a pipe beneath the surface and needed to be entirely replaced.

The village gave him an estimate of about $20,000 to replace the alley, and even offered to kick in $10,000. But Moroney said his own engineers told him the cost would be closer to $50,000.

“I don’t have an extra $50,000 to repave a village alley,” he said. “The alley is the sticking point.”

The site previously was occupied by a rundown two-flat, which was torn down. Brian and Mary Sullivan, co-owners of Doc Ryan’s, purchased the lot but lost it to foreclosure in spring 2012. 

“This added cost puts the viability of the whole project in doubt,” Moroney wrote in an October letter to Village Engineer Jo Ellen Charlton. 

Replacing the alley, he said, would involve removing 8 inches of soil material and existing surface, back filling, then adding 6 inches of gravel and repaving. 

“I don’t have access to the deals the village can get to do that kind of work.”

The site does not generate a significant amount of water because it is a small property, Plan Commission notes say.

According to village documents, zoning board members provided anecdotal evidence that neighbors on Elgin Avenue were concerned storm runoff from the building would add to flooding on their block. These concerns were not officially expressed in the zoning meeting. According to documents, a 12-inch combined sewer begins on Elgin at the alley and flows south to Jackson Boulevard, where it connects with another 12-inch pipe. 

Public Works Director John Doss told engineers, “There are no significant street flooding problems in the area,” according to village documents. However, residents may have basement flooding problems if they haven’t installed overhead sewers, the documents say.

Zoning codes followed

Moroney said he designed the structure to easily fit into village zoning codes for the Madison Street business corridor. Village zoning rules passed in 2006 require all residential units in the corridor to be a minimum of 800 square feet and provide parking. The four rental units Moroney is proposing would have their own parking spaces. The units would be 1,878 and 1,673 square feet. 

The village council and Zoning Board of Appeals bent the rules last year for the gut remodel of the former Circle Theater building by developer Peter Skiouris, who also bought the parcel at a foreclosed bank sale and remodeled the building with 20 units between 492 and 749 square feet. Those units have no parking spaces.

Moroney said he’s financing the project with his own money because it’s hard to find banks willing to lend for this type of commercial structure. He previously built single high-end family homes in the area and feels he has something to offer the village. 

“If I build there, the property taxes go from $5,000 to $45,000 a year, plus the village receives revenue from sales tax in the retail space. It’s a win-win for them, more so than an empty lot,” said Moroney, who met with the Plan Commission, Feb. 3, to pitch his request for the village to work with him to get the alley paved.

“The five citizens on the Plan Commission seemed extremely supportive of the project,” he said Monday night. “They seem to want to see the village and myself work something out.” 

Just in case the deal goes sour, he’s had the property on the market since the summer. “At $250,000 I haven’t had a single inquiry,” Moroney said. “It’s not like another developer will come along behind me. There’s no one.”

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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