Massaging zoning code

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Three massage businesses in Oak Park were shut down last week, at least temporarily, after Oak Park police and Cook County Sheriff's police collaborated on an investigation into alleged prostitution. Other charges included providing massages without a state massage license. 

The investigation of the three businesses — on North Avenue, Chicago Avenue and Roosevelt Road — was spurred by complaints from neighbors, made suspicious in part by sexually suggestive signage.

Thanks to the two police agencies. Thanks to residents for keeping a close eye on their neighborhoods. Refusing to accept the creep of dubious businesses into our village is a healthy sign of the self-regard we have for our community. 

"Our citizens are vigilant and keep close tabs on their neighborhoods," said Police Chief Tony Ambrose. "When an Oak Parker suspects something is out of the ordinary, they let police know."

Over recent years, Oak Park has sharply restricted the opening of pawn shops in the village. A thoughtfully considered rewrite of local zoning laws, soon to be voted on by the village board, will add protections against illicit massage businesses, too. The recent decision by Taco Bell to withdraw its application to build on Madison Street was based on the special-use permit required for any drive-thru location. And, of course, Oak Park has long been watchful over how package liquor sales are conducted in town, too.

While inevitably the current focus is on the possibility that village leaders might set aside height restrictions set by code at the Albion site on Lake Street, there are also many times when zoning is used effectively to manage the impact of businesses in our community.

Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 27th, 2017 6:19 AM

I have given my wife flowers, I have never given flowers to a prostitute, I trust my wife with all my finances, I have never trusted a prostitute with my or our finances. Some peoples lives are nothing more than a deep void. Sorry for them.

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: August 16th, 2017 2:06 PM

It is great news that the Trustees are considering new regulations to protect the quality of life in our community. At the same time it is important to remember that existing zoning and setback requirements were adopted after a careful process. There is no reason to make an exception to current hight and setback requirements at 1000 Lake Street.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2017 1:31 PM

Thank you, Wednesday Journal. The North Avenue District (T-NAD) and North Ave. Neighbors Association completely agree with this op-ed. T-NAD has advocated making massage parlors a special use in the new zoning code, along with banquet halls (which are sometimes nightclubs in disguise). We also recommended that drive-throughs continue as a special use. But we also advocated for a variety of liberalizations, such as permitting live/work uses to make it easier for artists studios to open. We are gratified that most of our recommendations were accepted and will become part of our new zoning code if the trustees vote to enact it. Your readers also should be aware that the village conducts almost no background checks before approving business license applications. (Chauffeur and liquor licenses are the only exceptions.) Village staff is now considering whether there should be more background checks. We urge staff to take a look at the business types that have created problems in the past, both in Oak Park itself and nearby communities. Licenses for businesses of these types (like massage parlors) should be subject to background checks. We'd also like to see a background check for any applicant who plans to operate a business after 11 pm (or 24/7). Businesses with late operating hours have been and continue to be a problem on North Ave.

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