After witnessing a meeting at village hall this past Tuesday, it was encouraging to hear Oak Park's trustees begin to discuss the need for a more comprehensive development plan for Madison Street.
With the likely approval of the third phase of John Schiess' latest project?#34;an additional set of townhomes situated on the 1018-1022 lots?#34;it is quite apparent that not only does the village need to draft and implement a detailed planning document, but that it also needs to enforce the documents and zoning laws that already are in place.
In regard to this particular project, Mr. Schiess is requesting a slew of variances based upon the precedents set by the initial two phases of his development. These allowances include everything from exemptions regarding the use of the land to the close proximity that the constructed buildings will come to the edges of his lots.
Unfortunately, this is Mr. Schiess' standard mode of operating, and my fear is that he is going to turn Madison Street into an endless row of identical townhomes that press in hostile fashion against the public spaces as well as the adjacent, privately-owned houses.
If allowed to continue down this path, these actions seriously would diminish Oak Park's rich architectural heritage, and they also would violate all of the current documents that address the issue of land use along Madison Street.
Vague as they are, all of the planning documents?#34;and there are several?#34;are in agreement that residential development should be secondary to retail and commercial space along Madison Street.
However, all of the proposals that Mr. Schiess has presented for Madison Street are skewed quite heavily towards residential use, and he is pushing the character of this vital corridor in a direction for which it was not designed. With all of the housing that Mr. Schiess is proposing, where exactly are the retail and commercial outlets going to go? Is Oak Park willing to cede?#34;and can it afford to cede?#34;these important community-building and tax-generating components to River Forest and Forest Park?
In dealing with the Madison Street sites that are situated closer to Oak Park Avenue, Mr. Schiess has demonstrated that he has not listened to the concerns of the surrounding community. He continues to put forth proposals that do not fit within the continuity of the existing neighborhood and do not take into consideration residents' concerns regarding such issues as land use, building height, population density, and traffic flow.
I hope that when he presents his final plans for these sites to the whole community, as he is required to do, that he will have considered the impact that his proposals will have upon the entirety of our quiet, family-oriented neighborhood as well as upon the future of Madison Street.