In her Wednesday Journal One View on public service [Viewpoints, March 8], Trustee Colette Lueck calls for open-mindedness from the trustee candidates and the voters. Since the Albion proposal for an 18-story development at 1000 Lake Street is becoming a galvanizing issue for some, she mentions it by name and asks us to reserve judgment until the review process formally starts.
This implies that the board will have refrained from skewing the process in any way by communicating with the developer about the likelihood of zoning variances. In which case the expectations of developer Albion are based solely on the multiple zoning variances the village board granted to the 21-story Vantage building, similarly zoned for an 80-foot-high building. As are the expectations of current and past property owners of 1000 Lake St., who set the land value so high that a developer can claim economic hardship unless he is allowed to build an 18-story building.
Which leads us to the power of precedent. When the variances granted are so extremely large, there should be a great amount of public discussion because the publicly-owned spaces — the parks, the sidewalks, the streets, the places we collectively dwell — are being altered dramatically. Each variance granted influences every future development.
If we believe the public should truly have a voice in this, look at the Greater Downtown Master Plan prepared by the people of Oak Park with the professional planning firm Crandall Arambula. It is objectively the clearest vision we have of what Oak Parkers want for their physical community. It describes itself as "a tool which will help Oak Park's leaders pro-actively plan for the future rather than reactively respond to development pressures."
The other tool created by us to serve our best interests is our Zoning Ordinance, which receives careful and expert thought in its creation and maintenance. In the particular case of 1000 Lake St., the Zoning Ordinance has been fashioned very specifically for that location. The underlying B-4 District is modified by the Downtown Lake Street Height and Massing Overlay District, as well as the Transit-Related Retail Overlay District.
This is not regulatory gobbledygook, or meant as a casual suggestion. This is deliberate, thoughtful planning. Of the properties contained in this zoning district, 1000 Lake St. is arguably the most sensitive for height and bulk due to its adjacency to Austin Gardens. If Oak Park wishes to preserve any of the remaining character, scale, and history of Lake Street, it is absolutely essential for us to vigilantly uphold our existing Zoning Ordinance.