Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Look out, here comes the village board

Something going on here we should know about?

The [OP village] board tabled the discussion on the zoning change until the end of the meeting, when it entered into a closed-door discussion citing "attorney-client privilege," which is not one of the 23 "strictly construed" exceptions that allow public bodies to meet in private.

When the board returned to open session at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, [President David] Pope explained the board’s position before a unanimous 6-0 vote to direct the village attorney to prepare a "findings of fact" on down-zoning the block. Trustee Greg Marsey left the meeting before the vote was taken.

The findings of fact would replace those prepared by the [village] Plan Commission in its recommendation to deny the zoning change from R-7 to R-6, which is a more restrictive and less dense residential zoning designation. The change, if it were to affect the planned condo building, would lower the four-story building by one floor and reduce its 11 units to nine.

Plan Commission, butt out.  Meanwhile, historic preservation took a hit when the relevant village commission denied landmark status to two buildings on the 400 N. Maple block

Commissioners expressed sympathy with preserving examples of more pedestrian architectural styles and with the neighbors’ plight in trying to prevent the character of their neighborhood from changing. However, most of the commissioners at the meeting found that the buildings are too badly dilapidated to retain historic architectural characteristics.

Falling-down buildings need not apply.  But landmarking the third would stop or slow down the condo development.  Neighbors are looking for “cultural”-historical reasons to save it — as if their interest was piqued in the first place by issues of crowding and making their block less livable or at least less cozy.

Meanwhile, the developer has made his plans under the wild assumption that zoning on books matters.

[Bob] Allen said he’s already spent a lot of money getting the project ready to be built, having not held back because he intended to build within allowable zoning.

But he faces a zoning change after the fact:

For weeks, Village Attorney Ray Heise has told the board that any zoning changes made now would not apply to a project for which a building permit application was received prior to the change.

Monday night, Pope would only say that the applicability of the zoning change, if approved, would be "subject to internal operating procedures of the village, village codes and state laws."

Which with $1.50 or so will get you a Green Line ride downtown or even to the South Side.  You can trust this village board as far as you can throw it. 

Trustees Geoff Baker and Robert Milstein were the most vocal in pushing the board to consider setting aside the Plan Commission to deny the zoning change request.

"I’m not going to sit by and let inappropriate zoning affect anybody," Baker said.

Milstein said the board needed "to send a new message in Oak Park that historic homes and peoples’ neighborhoods will be protected."

In other words, we can change that law if we want.  Or, to paraphrase the Red Queen, words mean what I want them to mean, period.

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