Take back our town from developers
I am concerned about the unbridled development that is going on in town. Our town is being taken over by developers. Developers are only concerned with making money. They are not concerned about our sewer systems or the police and fire departments who must service the village. I do not see any developers building 21st Century schools for our children. Their only concern is greed. As residents and taxpayers of this town we need to take back our village from the developers. I find it ironic that the village is encouraging owners to deconvert their two-flats back into single family homes while developers are tearing them down to put up multi-unit dwellings. How does this fit with the villages' vision?
Unlike the Main Street (Madison) development, which was done with thought and planning, the current trend of developers tearing down residential single family homes to put up multi units is being done with only profit in mind. There is no village plan, no village input. There is no consideration of our infrastructure, village services, parks and school system. They just take the money and run, leaving us with the fall out of an overburdened system.
I happen to live on the 500 block of Elgin where two single family homes (504-508) have been purchased by a developer who plans on tearing them down to put up 12 townhomes or a 6-story condominium (The zoning is R-3 and he is well within his rights to build large!). The homes on the east side of Elgin were built long before that side of the street was zoned R-3 (high density) in the 1940s-50s. The town leaders must have thought R-3 was a good idea back then. I don't think they envisioned a village surrounded and enclosed by a wall of tall buildings, which can potentially happen with current zoning.
The current zoning is archaic and needs to be updated so the village and its residents have some control as to how and where it is developed. Do you know what the zoning is in your area? (It is available on the town's website). You would be surprised to learn that basically all of the streets along busy streets are zoned R-3 (high density) or B-1 (neighborhood shopping? How tall is that?). It would be a good idea for the Review to publish a map of the current zoning so citizens can see what can potentially happen to their property. Your yard may no longer have shade. Instead of waving to a neighbor over your fence you may be looking at a brick wall. I think it is time our village leaders look at the current zoning and propose that it be changed to reflect the new vision of the village. I for one want Forest Park to maintain its "Small Town Charm."
Forest Park needs a noise ordinance
Given the latest debate over commercial cooling units' noise, I would like to encourage the Village to act on protecting the quality of life of us residents while supporting growth.
We live about three houses from a store which has a cooling unit in its roof. Here is our story: a few years ago, the cooling unit changed. Either it got older and started rattling, or it was made bigger and noisier, we really don't know.
It got to the point where we could not sustain a conversation in our backyard without shouting, so we finally decided to contact the Village and inquire about what the sound ordinance was for cases like this. After a few calls, and several vague answers, it seemed like nothing was in place. They didn't even have a device to test noise level.
The store was zoned as commercial, and we are obviously residential, then limbo was supposed to exist somewhere to keep us apart. We thought of everything, even putting evergreens along our fence to baffle the noise, but the plants would have to get to 20 feet tall to work for us, since the noise was coming from the store's roof.
The Village did not do much besides saying they were talking to the store's owner. We requested a screen but they told us that the people who had installed the cooling unit said that nothing could block it for it to work properly, and basically threw at us the whole "difficult neighbor" look. In the meanwhile, our summers were sadly affected because the noise made it impossible for us to enjoy the flowers and breeze, even at night.
We talked to our neighbors, and one of them told us that the whole "not blocking the cooling system" argument was baloney, because he had had a similar problem at work, and his company had installed a sound proof screen to stop the noise from the company's cooling system. We did a search on the internet, and lo and behold, sound proofing screens exist, exactly for this kind of problem, and they are called sound louvers. We eventually got the address of the owner of the store, and described to him that the noise coming from his roof made our peaceful garden feel like a 24/7 factory. We included prints from websites that sell sound louvers of different kinds that could be installed to alleviate the problem.
We were lucky that the store owner is a very kind man, who called us and apologized that this had been such an ordeal for us, and a simple wooden fence was put in place, cutting down the noise significantly. However, the other unit we do not see still affects the two houses immediately next to the store, and our neighbors in those houses do not want to insist further since they have other problems such as noise from trucks, litter, etc., which they have to deal with.
In the end, it took us three years of cumbersome negotiations to solve a simple problem related to noise from cooling units, and the Village's management contribution was only to suggest that we were just being difficult. In commercial zoning, if store owners do not want to install sound louvers because the noise does not bother them, then why not move the cooling systems to the front of all stores? It is noisier there anyway.
We hope to contribute to the debate with our experience, since we are just working people who want to be able to sit in their backyards and relax. Same as our neighbors, we would expect the Village of Forest Park to have an ordinance in place to allow us to experience residential life where one can open the windows for some fresh air, or go out and do some gardening, and chat with friends, maybe barbeque... things that seem less inviting with a loud motor rattling non-stop nearby.
By the way, caffe de Luca is our favorite restaurant in the whole of Chicago. Rather than making them guinea pigs for noise awareness, it would be wonderful if a civilized debate could take place to finally fill in for the lacking system we currently have, where innocent neighbors have to be insulted and face years of family life spent on getting partial solutions to something that should not be a problem in the first place.
Prevent unrestrained development in FP
A developer hopes to tear down two near century old homes at 504-508 Elgin Ave., and build 12 four-story townhomes on the lots. The east side of the block was zoned R-3 (multi-residential) about 1959, before the Village was inundated with large condo projects. In the last few years we have seen the North End of the village overwhelmed with townhouses and condos â€" and it continues. Madison St. and the project near Altenheim have added hundreds of condos and townhouses.
Now they are moving into our traditional neighborhoods. It's time for reevaluating and rezoning. There are plentiful sites left in the Village to build multi-story buildings. But not in the midst of a neighborhood of homes where the density of four-story townhouses-built six to the lot will destroy the residential ambiance and safety of the neighborhood.
The Zoning Board, after careful consideration of the impact, and the neighbors opposition, has wisely rejected the project. Now the Developer will appeal to the Village Council. We the residents of Forest Park must also appeal to the Council to reject this potential urban nightmare. Let the Council members know your feelings.
The out-of-town developers think that the R-3 zoning is written in stone, and that Forest Park is "easy-pickings." Can we blame them? They think we don't care about our lovely traditional neighborhoods. But they're wrong! The Elgin Avenue neighbors have awakened a giant of oppositionâ€"which is part of a nation-wide trend of protest against unrestrained, greedy development.
We're saying "let's slow down; stop; and look at where we're going. What do we want this Village to become? We certainly do care about our neighborhoods, our children's safety, and tree lined streetsâ€"with older traditional homes."
Wouldn't a few, maybe four, townhouses on those lots, with front porches, fit in and enhance the neighborhood?
So, Forest Parkers, let's begin saving our neighborhoods by telling the developers: we will not allow the 400 and 500 residential blocks of Elgin Ave. to become a canyon of four-story condos and townhouses. Then, after gargantuan projects like the Roos building and others, are done, Forest Park will still have a lovely historic neighborhood on Elgin Avenue.