Non-conforming: The time is now

Opinion

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On March 16 and March 23 the REVIEW brought up the issue of non-conforming properties and development in Forest Park.

The reality of the matter is that irregular parcels, old houses built on lots that are too small, houses converted into two-flats which are now considered nonconforming are part and parcel of life in Forest Park.

As the village's Preservation Committee survey has shown, the housing stock in Forest Park is old. With that come the trials and tribulations of variances and waivers, roadblocks to development and the inevitable squabbles at the decision-making level.

On Monday we once again saw a return of these problems when Jeanine Guncheon and James Robinson came before the Plan Commission for a development workshop.

The pair sought planned unit development (PUD) status for an irregular plot of land they have been trying to develop. They also want to save a notable old house, currently a two-flat, that sits too far back on two of the three and a half parcels that make up the lot.

The short-handed Plan Commission was split on the PUD proposal and the result was no waiver to a zoning requirement in order to give the project PUD status.

It's all been seen many times over in town. The bottom line is that today in Forest Park we have fiercely divided commissionsâ€"read Plan Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Village Councilâ€"when it comes to development of these nonconforming lots.

Why the divisions?

The answer, we say, lies at the top and rolls down the hill.

How could the Plan Commission be expected to make a clear decision or have a clear interpretation of the intent of a subjective mechanism such as PUD status if the Village Council itself is just as fiercely divided and unrelenting?

On March 23 Mayor Anthony Calderone told the REVIEW he was seeking talks with fellow council members to resolve the "bigger philosophical issues" surrounding non-conforming properties.

As far as we can tell, however, those talks were lost amidst political lobbying, minor scandals and accusations of violations of the open meetings acts. In essence any progress to create a comprehensive and necessary resolution to a problem has been temporarily lost to distractions and political agendas.

Nonconforming properties are never going to go away in Forest Park. Irregular plots and parcels are not going to disappear on their own. Development in Forest Park, it seems, is a train that cannot be stopped. With all of this in mind, a resolution is necessary.

At present there are two camps on the development issue, each somewhat extreme. One camp wants severe limits on development options. The other camp resists logical controls and guidance on development.

We need a middle ground and we would like to see the mayor renew his commitment to these talks, perhaps even including members of the ZBA and the Plan Commission in order to reach a consensus on this issue and ensure the train runs smoothly. Otherwise the only thing we can be sure of is that development will continue to happen in town and non-conforming properties will not be going away any time soon.

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