For over a month, neighbors have been coming to Forest Park Village Council meetings to complain about the house being built at 7713 Wilcox St., and now the village is taking action.
Jan Kazar, who lives in the house to the east, at 7711 Wilcox St., pointed out that, under the current zoning code, nobody should have been able to build a new house on a lot of that size in the first place without getting a zoning variance. Steve Keating and his wife, Mary Keating, who live in the house to the west, complained about construction workers intruding on their property and blocking their garage. The Keatings demanded that the village give them a legally enforceable document that would protect them from liability if something happens to the contractors, something that the Forest Park declined to do.
Public Health and Safety Director Steve Glinke, whose duties include oversight over building issues, acknowledged to the Review that the house shouldn’t have been permitted. He said that owner Gheorghe Rosca is applying for the zoning variance ex post facto. If the variance is approved, the building would be retroactively legalized, but if it’s not, the structure would be illegal, which would force him to start from scratch.
According to the Cook County records, the property ended up in foreclosure after its previous owner, Kenneth Wick, died. It ended up in the Cook County Treasurer’s scavenger tax sale, which is how Rosca, of northwest suburban Niles, ended up acquiring it in late April for a symbolic $10.
He had since cleared the old structures and begun building a new two-story house.
The entire block currently has R-1 residential zoning, where every lot must be at least 50 feet wide, and should have a front yard of no less than 20 feet, or 15 percent of the lot, whichever is greater. The buildings that were already there are grandfathered in, but since Rosca is building from scratch, he falls under the current regulations.
Kazar flagged the issue at the Oct. 10 village council meeting. She declined a request for a follow-up interview.
In an email to the Review, Glinke acknowledged that the building plans shouldn’t have been approved as they were submitted.
“[The situation was] the result of a ministerial staff oversight during the pre-construction review process,” he wrote.
Glinke said this mistake, along with an issue with a different house at 838 Circle Ave., led Forest Park to change the review process to include “a full third-party zoning analysis before any structure is approved for construction, including all commercial and residential development.”
Glinke added that, after consulting with the village attorney, Forest Park decided the best course of action would be for the two projects to apply for setback and lot area variations. He said the Wilcox property will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 20. The commission’s vote is advisory, and it will be up to the village council to make the final decision.
The Keatings first raised their issues during the Sept. 26 village council meeting, saying that the construction crew has been using their yard for construction debris, driving construction equipment over their front yard and obstructing access to their garage.
“We both work from home at times and we both have to be able to come and go,” said Steve Keating. Every attempt, though, to keep the line of communication, that’s like phone numbers, notes on doors and everything — nothing is happening.”
At the time, the Keatings demanded to be kept better informed about Rosca’s construction plans, and they want “a written statement” from the village that “guarantees we will not be liable in any form” for anything that would happen with Rosca’s contractors during construction.
The couple pressed the issue again during the Oct. 23 meeting, leading Mayor Rory Hoskins to respond that the village wouldn’t do that. He encouraged the Keatings to continue talking with Glinke and other village staff.
“If you feel like someone is trespassing on your property, you’re right to call the police,” he added.
Steve Keating agreed to a follow-up interview, but he canceled it, saying he tested positive for COVID-19 and wasn’t feeling well. The Review was unable to reach Rosca by deadline.