Ordinance to address condo conversions

State allows greater authority over code compliance in conversions

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By BILL DWYER

The River Forest village board on Monday directed its attorney to finalize language on an ordinance designed to give the village greater oversight authority on future condominium conversions. Village Attorney Jon Gilbert has already spent a dozen hours researching and revising language on the proposed ordinance, it was disclosed Monday. In addition to directing Gilbert to continuing his legal work, the village board directed staff to study how neighboring municipalities handle condo conversions and then report back to the board.

The new ordinance will be allowed under House Bill 3538. That bill, which was passed by both houses of the state legislature May 16, is co-sponsored by state representatives Deborah Graham (D-78), Karen A. Yarbrough (D-7) and Angelo Saviano (R-77). It is currently on Governor Rod Blagojevich's desk, awaiting his signature.

"The kind of ordinance I'd like to see here is one that would require the equivalent of a building permit," Village President Frank Paris told trustees Monday night. Such an ordinance would in effect require the same type of code enforcement scrutiny for any conversion of rental apartment buildings to condominium that the village now routinely applies to new construction.

Paris said Tuesday that prior to the new legislation, "it was very difficult for the village to enforce building code, life safety and zoning issues," such as electrical, plumbing, sewage and parking requirements.

Any ordinance, Paris said, must make clear the village's expectations up front, at the time a developer brings plans to village staff.

"This must be embarked on at the beginning of the process," said Paris. "Not at the end."

Gilbert said there are several municipalities in the area that have ordinances River Forest could study?#34;in particular, Oak Park, Elmwood Park, and Riverside.

"When property changes hands [in Oak Park and Elmwood Park] there's a pretty aggressive review of all code compliance," said Gilbert.

Trustee Al Swanson said Monday that while he doesn't have a problem, per se, with the ordinance, he expressed concern that there be flexibility for such things as the number of available parking spaces.

Such situations, said Paris, could be negotiated with the village's Development Review Board, which routinely handles variations to the village's zoning code.

The board hopes to have firm language for an ordinance to consider at either its August or first September meeting.

In other business the village board:

? Discussed creating a new category of liquor license for the Boston Market currently being remodeled. That license, which would be termed "Class 4B," would allow the new Boston Market concept to sell wine and beer on a take-out basis to customers who also purchased take out meals.

Concern was expressed by several trustees that the village might be opening the door to "turning the village's restaurants into package liquor stores."

However, Boston Market CEO Mets Lederhausen told the board that the intention was merely to use wine sales as an "enhancement" to their take-out business, which he said would be the primary focus under the chain's new concept. At a starting price of $10 to $15 a bottle for wine, Lederhausen said it was highly unlikely the sales would lead to problems with public consumption.

"There are probably a lot of places you can go and get [wine and beer] more cheaply," said Lederhausen. "And we won't be one of them."

? Voted 5-1 to refer a request to change signage at the CVS Pharmacy on North Avenue to the Development Review Board for a hearing. CVS had negotiated the signage details as part of the approval of their building by the DRB and the village board when they first opened for business several years ago.

"Frankly, I'm a little disappointed they're coming back two years later for a change," said Trustee Patrick O'Brien.

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