Forest Park’s industrial corridor at 7500 Industrial Drive.

The Forest Park Village Council voted unanimously to approve the changes to the zoning code governing industrial districts that will, most notably, allow meat processing businesses in the industrial areas at the south end of the village. 

Under the previous zoning regulations, meat processing businesses were not allowed in the I-2 district located along Industrial Drive, which runs east for about a half mile from the 1700 block of Desplaines Avenue. 

The problem is that the village previously allowed Weinstein Wholesale Meat to open in the I-2 district, at 7501 Industrial Dr. 

Purely Meats, a meat wholesaler and butcher shop based in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, 4345 W. Division St., intends to move to 7500 Industrial Dr. 

Steve Glinke. Forest Park’s public health and safety chief, said Weinstein was allowed in before his time, but because it was already there, he was originally under impression that meat processers were allowed by right. 

Once he realized that it wasn’t the case, he requested a change in the zoning code to both bring Weinstein into compliance and allow Purely Meats to move in. The Forest Park Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the change on Jan. 17, sending it to the village council for final approval.

Forest Park has two types of industrial zoning districts – the lighter-industry I-1 districts and the heavier-industry I-2 districts. The newly approved changes create separate lists of prohibited uses for both districts.

Both districts prohibit anything involving hazardous chemicals, production and processing of fossil fuels and asphalt, making cotton textile products, operations involving “corrosive and noxious chemicals,” including paint manufacturing. 

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 is now allowed in I-2, fat rendering, as well as slaughterhouse and stockyard operations, are still prohibited. And, unlike in I-1, the new language prohibits 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.  

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 Industrial Drive property. 

He told the Review that he wasn’t just worried about the Industrial Drive site, but the parcels occupied by the U.S. Post Office distribution facility and the recently vacated U.S. Army Reserve base, which are closer to residential homes and are zoned I-2. There is a block-wide I-1 district between those parcels and the residential areas. 

Kovac reiterated those objections in a statement submitted to the village, a copy of which was provided to the Review. He also argued that people may underestimate the impact of living next to a meat processor.

“The odor [coming from Farmington] is most unpleasant and nothing like that from a food truck, restaurant kitchen or back yard grill,” he wrote. “My residence at times is totally blanketed by such odor which may extend for blocks away from the plant itself. At times I have vacated my home and surrounding neighborhood to escape the impact of Farmington Foods.”