By Anna Lothson
Updating Oak Park's building codes has been a series of complex discussions that have been met with some opposition from those within the development, real estate and business community.
At Monday's meeting the village board reviewed a first reading of staff's recommendation to adopt a series of international building codes to keep Oak Park aligned with national safety standards, but two issues — sprinkler requirements and adding a certificate of occupancy remained a heated issue with those who spoke during Monday's public comment portion.
Representation from the business community at the meeting consisted of a commercial Realtor, chair of the Business Association Council, and business owners. All were united against two requirements outlined in the international codes which would require sprinklers added whenever 75 percent of wall and ceiling surfaces are altered or newly constructed for properties 3,500 square feet or more. The board eventually directed staff to change the sprinkler ordinance language back from 3,500 square feet to 12,500 square feet, which is the current requirement.
The certificate of occupancy issue was also discussed and the board collectively agreed adding another layer of paperwork to any building issue could put Oak Park at a competitive disadvantage in the business and development community.
Because the matters were simply a first reading, they will come back for another vote before officially being adopted. Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the certificate of occupancy will be up for review in relation to the licensing and permitting process in 2014.
The board had a good number of questions for staff about the code upgrades in terms of how they impact businesses and future businesses that may want to move into Oak Park. The board agreed the process needs to be quicker so Oak Park can be competitive in the market. Although the issue was discussed for a good portion of the meeting, the building code ordinance details won't be officially decided until the issue comes back to the board for a second reading.
"We need smart regulations that help move Oak Park forward," Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said. "We need to make it easier to do business in Oak Park. We need to work to fill Oak Park's vacant store fronts."