A development moratorium designed to preserve the character of certain residential blocks in Oak Park went into effect Tuesday morning after it was approved 5-1 at a special meeting of the village board Monday night.

Trustee Ray Johnson cast the dissenting vote. Trustee Geoff Baker was absent.

The move stops the demolition of single-family homes and smaller multifamily buildings in favor of taller, denser ones now allowed by zoning.

The moratorium is limited to any construction of new buildings-not just where smaller buildings are being demolished-on blocks zoned R-7 and R-6, the two densest multifamily zones in the village. It does not affect renovations, partial demolitions, remodeling or condo conversions that keep within the same height and footprint of the original building.

Areas zoned R-7 and R-6 are located predominantly along major thoroughfares throughout the village and on its perimeter.

“This is a reasonable step to take at this time,” said Village President David Pope, who added that he’s not a fan of development moratoria in general. “The limitations it provides for are narrow.”

Pope said moratorium suggestions in the past have been framed in a much broader way. “What we have in front of us today does nothing of the sort.”

Trustee Elizabeth Brady said the moratorium is not just about economics.

“The real decision is about economics, social value, and it’s about environmental impact,” she said.

The time restriction of the temporary halt was extended to 120 days at a study session last week to give time for the process of looking at and possibly changing zoning in some areas currently zoned R-6 and R-7. Trustees originally had eyed a 90-day moratorium.

“Part of a moratorium is not just to conduct the study but to formulate the solution and enact” whatever legislation might result, Village Attorney Ray Heise told the board last Thursday night. “That’s almost impossible to do in a 90-day period.”

If the moratorium were to lapse before zoning changes were made law, “we’d be back where we started,” Heise said. A moratorium can be extended or shortened any time before its end date, he said.

Village Planner Craig Failor is expected to deliver a report in early October with pictures of every building in the zones, the number of units in each building and the land uses. The report will study areas zoned for larger multifamily buildings but that, in reality, contain mostly single-family or smaller multifamily homes.

Trustee Ray Johnson did not support the moratorium idea in part because of the process to enact it that was cut short in observance of the board’s month off in August.

“This is normally a process that should take several weeks, not several days,” Johnson said, asking Heise to confirm. Heise said it was “not that unusual” for the board to respond quickly to an issue.

Johnson said the move could create an environment of uncertainty for developers, and that, taken together, this and other moves Oak Park has made might accumulate into making the village seem anti-development.

“There is also a lot of uncertainty when it comes to residents,” responded Trustee Robert Milstein.

Developer Robert Allen spoke in opposition to the moratorium, saying he felt as if it was aimed at him. He has proposed building a four-story, 11-unit condominium building on the 400 block of North Maple Avenue, which has drawn a fight from residents of the block to stop or change the plans. He also recently got approval to build a multifamily building at 1125 Erie St.

Pope said 17 teardowns of single-family homes since 2001 overstates the problem. He said there have been 11 teardowns since 2003, when the village passed a teardown ordinance to protect single-family homes in areas zoned R-1 through R-4. One of those teardowns was because of a fire, and two others were on Chicago Avenue, where owners of larger nearby houses were returning their properties to having large lots. The remaining eight teardowns were “disproportionately” in R-7 and R-6 areas, Pope said.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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