RF board approves zoning revamp

? OKs changes on height and setback standards for single family homes, ends moratorium on applications for teardowns.

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The River Forest Village board gave its unanimous blessing to a set of new zoning standards related to single-family homes Monday night, and also voted to end a controversial moratorium on the teardown and rebuilding of single-family homes in the village.

The changes cover structure height, setbacks from property lines, overall land coverage and the ratio between house size and lot size.

Three issues related to single-family housing were left unresolved, including the reconstruction of homes on non-conforming lots smaller than 50-feet wide, properties featuring a single house on two legally distinct parcels of land with separate Property Identification Numbers (PINs), and the legal definition of the term "story" as it regards height.

However the village's housing consultant, John Houseal, who gave a brief review of the proposed code changes, said that the unresolved nature of those three issues would not be affected by the new single-family standards adopted by the board. He also told the trustees that the new standards they were considering were all well within currently accepted parameters used by builders in River Forest.

"The standards are entirely consistent with the houses they're building," he said.

Some confusion remained, however.

"We've covered how a house must be built," explained Houseal. "We haven't covered all the situations under which a house may be built."

Village president Frank Paris, who has previously expressed misgivings about the moratorium, pressed hard to have it formally ended. Prime construction season has arrived, he argued, and any continued restrictions on property owners would hurt the village.

"We're holding up the entire village," said Paris, who called April and May "the two most important months of the year" in terms of home building. "I think it's a shame to keep people waiting to build a new house."

Several others however, including trustees Al Swanson and Patrick O'Brien and village clerk Patrick Hosty, questioned the need to hurry the process.

"What's the hurry?" asked O'Brien.

"We're talking four weeks here, five tops," said Hosty.

In the end, though, the board voted 4-1 to lift the moratorium, with only Swanson voting no.

"I don't think we've resolved all of the issues that need to be resolved," Swanson explained afterward. "There's also the possibility of sending an incorrect message that we as a board believe all the work of the ZBA [Zoning Board of Appeals] is resolved. It clearly isn't."

The zoning board is expected to come to a decision on the final three issues related to single-family houses by May 10.

As if to underscore the uncertainty of zoning issues in the village, the village board denied variances for proposed renovations on two properties that had passed the ZBA by 6-0 votes. One involved an undersized, non-conforming property on Oak Avenue whose owners wanted to build a garage. The other was for the teardown and rebuilding of a corner lot home on the 1000 block of Ashland Ave that would include an adjacent property.

In other developments, Village Administrator Charles Biondo told the board that he had received a signed copy of the intergovernmental agreement between River Forest and the Cook County Forest Preserve Board of Directors. That agreement allows work to finally begin on the long-awaited East Lake Street Entry Streetscape project.

The board heard a brief presentation of the final plans for the East Lake Street Entry Streetscape project, which Assistant Village Administrator Steve Guitierrez characterized as "90 percent complete." A few minor details need to be ironed out before the project is sent out for bids.

Village staff said it's intended that all project work, which includes decorative fencing and street lighting, will be completed by Oct. 8, in time for the Oak Park and River Forest High School Homecoming parade.

? Due to the meeting running past 10 p.m., discussion of the proposed "Friendly Streets" program developed by Trustee Mike O'Connell's traffic safety commission was tabled until the next board meeting in May.

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