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Franklin St. neighbor opposes four-unit condo next door

Mayor pulls proposed zoning updates off council agenda

August 21st, 2019 3:00 PM

By Robert J. Lifka

Contributing Reporter

Forest Park resident Thomas Kovac brought his opposition to a planned condominium building in his neighborhood to the Aug. 12 village council meeting, not only arguing against the proposal but also accusing village officials of favoring the interests of developers over those of residents.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Kovac explained his opposition to the four-unit planned unit development (PUD) at 7428 Franklin St., which would be next door to his single-family home at 7432 Franklin.

In addition, he argued against passage of an amendment to the village zoning ordinance that would have provided a clearer path for construction of the PUD, noting the timing "is extremely odd." The amendment was one of five proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance originally listed on the Aug. 12 meeting agenda, all of which were removed by Mayor Rory Hoskins once the meeting began.

After the meeting, Hoskins said the decision to not take up the five proposed amendments was due to his own unfamiliarity with the zoning ordinance as new mayor in addition to the unfamiliarity of new Commissioners Ryan Nero and Jessica Voogt. He also said he would prefer to have the full village council in attendance for consideration of the amendments, noting the absence of Commissioner Dan Novak on Aug. 12.    

According to village officials, the recommendation to amend the zoning ordinance to allow multi-family and single-family residences to be permitted in the R-3 High Density Residential District was the result of one of the reviews of the zoning ordinance that village staff members regularly take.

Village staff members review the zoning ordinance for consistency with the comprehensive plan, development trends and best practices, according to a memo to the council from Courtney Kashima, the village's planning consultant. 

"The village has a high number of nonconforming structures, particularly in the residential neighborhoods," Kashima said in the memo. "Some regulations, while well intentioned, have proved to be a barrier to investment in the residential areas of the village by limiting diversity in the housing stock, increasing costs and time for property owners, and exacerbating the number of nonconforming residential structures. 

"The R-3 High Density Residential District does not currently allow single-family dwellings or dwellings more intense than townhomes/rowhomes and duplexes. Amending the permitted uses to allow the full range of residential types in the village's highest density district will alleviate many nonconforming uses and encourage investment. The zoning ordinance's bulk standards will remain and will inform the intensity of use to protect and preserve the village's existing character."

In his remarks during the public comment portion of the Aug. 12 meeting, Kovac argued against the proposed zoning amendment.

"I am very concerned that once you open the door to multi-family, what we're going to end up with is more proposals and end up like Oak Park," where he said residents are expressing opposition to proposed construction of multistory buildings, especially in that village's downtown.

In a separate memo that was emailed to village officials, Kovac explained his opposition to the proposed PUD on the lot next door to his house.

"This tall, very large structure would be just five feet from my lot line and a mere 23 feet from my side porch and house," he said. "Such a structure would be devasting as it would block out sunshine for a large portion of the day from my front, side and back yards.

"The utility of my side porch and yard would be greatly harmed by having to confront a 50-foot wall just a few feet away. At night my porch and side and rear yards would be highly impacted by the lighting cast out by four floors of windows over a 66-foot stretch."

In the memo and in his comments at the Aug. 12 meeting, Kovac also noted that the height of the proposed PUD would be out of character for the neighborhood and unlike other property on Franklin and nearby Brown Street.

At the meeting, Kovac also criticized Building Department staff members, accusing them of being "extremely accommodating" to what he called "outside wealthy businessmen" while giving "short shrift" to residents. He criticized the notification procedure, claiming that developers have up to two months to prepare for a meeting on zoning matters while residents are only given 48 hours' notice. He acknowledged that he had received notice but contended that his neighbors did not, apparently because their property was more than 50 feet away from the proposed PUD.

"You've said a lot tonight and we appreciate your comments," Hoskins said after informing Kovac that he had exceeded the customary time limit for public comment.  

Building Director Steve Glinke said after the meeting that he "strongly disagrees" with Kovac's statements.

Opposition to the PUD is not the first time Kovac has spoken out against the village's actions in a zoning matter.

Kovac sued the village after he was unsuccessful in his efforts in December 2015 to prevent the village council from approving a plan to expand the Farmington Foods pork processing plant at 7419 Franklin. On Aug 12, he noted the litigation in that matter continues.

The 2015 action allowed Farmington Foods, which produces a range of fresh, smoked and cooked meats, to construct a 13,000-square-foot addition to one of several buildings the plant occupies on the site.

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