River Forest seems poised to undo an odd and troubling eight-year-old ordinance that limited economic development and guaranteed a patina of insider dealing in every discussion of new housing construction.
Last week, the village’s zoning board voted 5-2 to eliminate the so-called “chit” ordinance, which required that before a developer could construct a new unit of housing in River Forest, they had to take another unit off the market. The seeming goal of the ordinance, championed by past village president Frank Paris, was to trade what little affordable housing existed in the village for larger, higher-priced units. It also stifled new housing development by effectively limiting the number of housing units in the village to the artificial mark of what existed at the time of the ordinance’s adoption.
Our layman’s view has long been that this law may be unconstitutional and is clearly elitist. Worst of all, it left the village open to perpetual suspicion of favoring certain developers.
The village board that was elected in the spring pledged a more open government. If, in its meeting in December, the new board rids the village of this unfair law, it will have taken a clear step toward more aggressive development, more open development, and – perhaps most importantly – more effective development.
As the board eyes the eventual redevelopment of Lake and Lathrop, its individual members seem eager for a notable mixed-use project on the site. Killing the chit system opens that door while also quieting endless speculation of secret deals long in the works under the arcane terms of the swap.