The Oak Park Plan Commission voted unanimously Thursday to recommend denial of the planned development at 827-833 Madison Street.
Density was the primary concern expressed by commissioners, followed by concerns regarding a lack of recycling space in the proposed building, bike storage, and the depth and size of the first floor retail space.
A findings-of-fact memo will now be written up by commission attorney Richard Martins for commissioners to vote on some time in August and send to the village board.
The decision followed two hours of testimony during which architect and developer representative Victor Ignacio Dziekiewicz presented revised plans for the site, and answered questions from commissioners. The plan revisions included changes to the building’s facade, as well as dropping the proposed number of units from 44 to 39. However, that was still seven units over what is allowed by code, and the project would require a total of eight zoning code variances.
Commissioners also heard largely negative comments from several members of a neighborhood group, Neighbors for Madison Renewal. The group expressed concern over density, design, and the unaddressed effects on their neighborhood of the loss of parking for Leona’s Restaurant across the street on Madison.
Linda Hill of the 500 block of South Grove Avenue insisted that density needed to be reduced, potential parking burdens on the 500 blocks of Grove and Carpenter avenues needed to be addressed, and better management of the marketing of the retail portion assured.
“We really feel the success of the retail is paramount to the success of the building and to the area,” she said.
A letter from the Madison Street Business Association both complimented and criticized the revision, praising changes to the window design, but expressing disappointment with a lack of depth (16 feet) on the retail space, as well as the layout of that space.
In summation, Dziekiewicz called the project “a catalyst” for future investment on Madison. The revised proposal, he said, was “a significant compromise and, overall, a good project, a very positive addition to Oak Park and the area of Madison Street.”
Commissioners, however, didn’t believe there had been enough compromise. While most expressed qualified satisfaction with changes the developer had made, they did not believe they had gone far enough.
“It’s going in the right direction, but I don’t have closure on the changes yet,” said Charles Bassett.
“I don’t think we should approve seven additional extra residential units just because they’ve addressed the parking [issue],” said Linda Bolte. “Seven units is a significant increase. I don’t think I’ve seen enough benefits to support [a variance].”
Victor Guarino said the variance would set a bad precedent for the entire Madison Street redevelopment process.
“I can’t see a strong, compelling reason to go against the zoning,” said Guarino. “To go over [by] 23 percent-where do you draw the line?”