The River Forest Development Review Board voted 4-1 last Thursday to approve a six unit townhome development at Madison Street and Park Avenue. Local developer Michael Madock, who hopes to begin work on the $2.6 million project this spring, will now seek final approval from the River Forest Village Board on Dec. 13.
Madock, who had made several alterations to his original building plan during the approval process, was excited if cautious as he approached what he hopes will be the project’s final hurdle.
“The project is better than it was when we started,” he said Monday. “I’m hoping the village board will look upon the project as beneficial to the town.” That seemed to be the view of village architectural consultant Nevin Hedlund, who told the board that he was satisfied that Madock had responded well to concerns and criticisms by the board and village staff.
“I thing it’s really a better looking building,” he said. “It meets all the criteria that were set up in the last meeting.”
So far the project has raised few concerns among neighbors, other than questions regarding privacy by a neighbor immediately north of the proposed site, as well as questions regarding the shadowing effects of the 38.5 foot structure. Those concerns have apparently been addressed to the neighbor’s satisfaction. The dozen neighbors in attendance last Thursday seemed to support the development.
“It would totally define and anchor our street,” said Dennis Marani, who lives at 347 Park Ave.
Thursday’s hearing was a continuance of an October 31 DRB hearing during which Madock was confronted with an array of concerns from both DRB members and Park Avenue neighbors, as well as several variances to the village zoning code, referred to as site development allowances, or SDAs. The village’s new land use consultant, John Houseal, began Thursday’s hearing by giving the board an overview of the underlying zoning on the subject property. While the village is treating the property as R-3, or multiple residential use, for purposes of determining code requirements, Houseal said the property’s underlying C-2, or commercial zoning still applied for purposes of Madock’s application. That commercial designation actually helped Madock’s cause, since it effectively reduced the number of SDAs Madock previously needed from six to just one?#34;for excess height.
Addressing that issue, board member Dennis McMahon pointedly noted that Madock had initially submitted plans for a 30 foot tall flat roof design that conformed to code, and had altered it to feature a taller pitched roof only after village staff had recommended he do so.
Madock dealt with the only other major concern expressed by village staff when he acknowledged that a planned drive way near the north end of Park Avenue might cause a traffic flow problem during rush hour periods. Village staff had previously proposed widening the street a total of 42 inches to accommodate a left turn lane onto Madison from Park. Madock suggested instead that a “Do not block driveway” sign be installed. When Bonnie Flock of village traffic consultant DeWalt Hamilton acknowledged that such a sign “might work,” and the board seemed amenable to that solution, Madock then agreed to a verbal guarantee that he would assume any costs related to widening Park Avenue should the village ultimately determine over the next year that the street did in fact need to be widened.
The board then voted to approve the project, with board members Berni, Kirk, Levy and McMahon voting affirmatively. Chairman Frank Martin, the only dissenting voice on the panel, said his no vote stemmed from his belief that Madock had failed to satisfactorily address the issue of excess height.
“I think the proposed building is too high,” he told fellow board members and Madock. Martin also reiterated his concern that Madock should not be allowed to count a long vacant apartment above the current union hall building on the property as one of six residential units required to be taken off the market under the village’s density ordinance.