By Jim Bowman
. . . Spotlight on V-board in action. At issue: Transit Related Retail Overlay District zoning exemptions -- special cases, also known as variances for deviations. Deviant merchants here, what they are permitted as to use of land or use, etc. of buildings or structures.
Are you with this so far?
Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decides these exceptions, requiring neither incitement -- variance seekers go direct to them -- nor approval by the V-board. These people decide, based on information given (and verified, we presume), and that's it. But the rules of game, the criteria, are set by the uber-board, the trustees.
In any case, cutting to the chase (if I may speak a little trite here), what the trustees accepted last meeting, May 20, about standards etc. for variances, as above) comes before them tonight for a "first reading." They talked it over on May 20 and with a few changes said they liked the ZBA rules change as offered. Now they mean to hear it and maybe discuss it some more, maybe tweaking it for I assume the second reading.
There's a wrinkle, however. Board president Anan Abu-Taleb, recent landslide winner as independent candidate-without-board-experience, has done his thinking before this meeting and has an alternative rules-change proposal:
An alternate Ordinance has . . . been prepared at the request of Village President Abu-Taleb with additional language that provides for an expanded definition [of?] criteria for consideration in determining whether a use should . . . be granted (. . . relative to unusual hardship and reasonable return).
Thus spake (wrote in agenda) Village Planner Craig Faillor. "Expanded" here means less restrictive, apparently in line with Abu-Taleb's repeated campaign references to making it easier to do business in Oak Park.
Planner Faillor recommends expanding -- not of the criteria but of application not just to the transit-related etc. areas but apparently to the whole darn village:
Recommendation: Adopt the Ordinance relative to the Zoning Ordinance text amendments which includes expanding the use variance Standards and Criteria to all areas of the Village. [sic]
Which to be truthful, I don't get. This transit-related category calls for "densification" (I love it), "encouraging denser development." That is, packing more uses in; hence, retail on ground floor, apts. or offices on the upper floors, that sort of thing.
But I doubt if the planner wants to densify the whole village. I can see it now: Protestors flocking to meetings with signs, "We don't want to densify!" Or "Go densify yourselves, you dumb trustees!"
No, this blog may be an inexpert, if well-intentioned, interpreter; but it's going on record here: The planner does not want to densify the whole damn village! Take it to the bank! (trite)
Finally, to get a flavor of what planners and their departments do, consider this list of establishments which "shall not be located at grade level or on the ground floor of any building or structure unless located at least 50 feet from any street line":
Family residential-care home;
Group residential-care homes;
Animal clinics without an open kennel;
General office, including real estate offices and medical and dental clinics;
Medical and orthopedic appliance store;
Studio (artist, photography, recording);
Adult day-care facility;
Post high-school education or instructional institution, public or private.
Schools, public or private;
Banquet, exhibition and meeting halls, public.
Accessory buildings and structures;
Non-Village of Oak Park government owned or operated services;
And then think whether you want (a) to be a village planner or (b) a trustee who has to think about such details.