Editor’s note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect Steve Glinke’s comment to the Review. The village approvals that allowed Weinstein to open preceded Glinke’s appointment as public health and safety director. The Review regrets this error.
Purely Meats, a meat wholesaler and butcher shop that has been based in Chicago for over 80 years, is planning to move to Forest Park’s Industrial Drive corridor.
The company processes and sells meat to grocery stores and restaurants in bulk, and residents can take advantage of its online store and a physical butcher shop. Purely Meats is currently based in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park, at 4345 W. Division St., and it uses the former Moo & Oink grocery store in the Austin neighborhood, at 4848 W. Madison St. But before it can start operations in Forest Park, the village council will need to allow meat processing in I-2 industrial zoning districts.
The current zoning code doesn’t allow businesses that deal in “cooking, distillation and processing of animal and vegetable products” in any industrial area. On Jan. 17, the Forest Park Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend allowing it in I-2 districts, as well as to establish a separate list of what is prohibited in those zoning districts. The village council still needs to approve the recommendations, as well as to sign off on a potential tax incentive for the property.
Forest Park has two types of industrial zoning districts – the lighter-industry I-1 districts and the heavier-industry I-2 districts. The current zoning code simply states that anything that’s prohibited in I-1 districts is also prohibited in I-2, and food processing businesses are currently on that district’s prohibited list.
Purely Meat purchased the property at 7500 Industrial Drive, across the street from Weinstein Wholesale Meat, 7501 Industrial Drive. The company applied for the Cook County Class 6(b) tax incentive classification. Industrial properties are usually assessed at 25% of their market value, but the Class 6(b) classification lowers that rate to 10% of the market value for 10 years, then the assessment will increase by 5% a year over the next three years until it returns to 25%. The incentive is designed to encourage companies to build or rehabilitate industrial properties by saving them money on taxes.
Steve Glinke. Forest Park’s public health and safety chief, said that, when Purely Meats originally applied for the permits, he “didn’t realize that the prohibition on food processing use was in place.”
That is because Weinstein Meat had been approved under Glinke’s predecessor, several years before he moved into that role. Once Glinke discovered the mistake, he proposed changing the zoning code to bring Weinstein into compliance and “pave the way for a new business.”
“This was an error in evaluation, and I owned it,” Glinke said.
Purely Meat did not respond to the Review’s request for comment by deadline.
Class 6(b) tax classifications are approved by the Office of Cook County Assessor, but the municipality where the property is located must pass a resolution supporting the change. During a Jan. 17 meeting, Glinke said village attorneys are currently reviewing the application.
Resident Thomas Kovac, who repeatedly complained about another meat processor and wholesaler, Farmington Foods, near his home in north Forest Park, at one point sued that company. During the Jan. 17 meeting, he argued that the same issues he complained about – the meat odors and increased emissions from truck traffic would affect the residents north of the property.
“I don’t think it’s fully appreciated how close Industrial Drive is to the south end of the residential area,” Kovac said. “It’s only a few hundred feet. We have a lot of odor that goes over many blocks surrounding my house. I can see something similar occurring here, if certain kinds of activities were allowed in the I-2 district.”
The closest residential area to the property is northeast of Industrial Drive, on the stretch of 16th Street between Circle and Harlem avenues. Glinke told the commission that Kovac exaggerated the proximity.
“They’re not even in the notice area, which is 250 feet,” he said. “The closest [residential units] to property are in the 500-700 ft range.”
Proposed I-2 zoning prohibitions
The changes approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission includes a list of uses that are prohibited – some of which are the same as in I-1, but others would be unique to I-2.
Just like in I-1 zonings, anything that deals in hazardous chemicals, production and processing of fossil fuels and asphalt, making cotton textile products, operations involving “corrosive and noxious chemicals,” including paint manufacturing is prohibited. I-1’s prohibition on storing junk, paper and scrap materials out in the open will remain in place as well, and so will the prohibition on explosives and fireworks manufacturers.
While meat processing would be allowed, fat rendering, as well as slaughterhouse and stockyard operations, would be prohibited. And, unlike in I-1, the new language would specifically prohibit manufacturing involving creosote, a substance used to preserve wood and burn malignant tissue. The chemical is toxic in large doses and has potential to cause cancer.