A new zoning amendment, unanimously approved at last week’s village council meeting, will make it easier and quicker for new restaurants to open in Forest Park’s Downtown Business District (DBD).

Steve Glinke, director of health and safety which also includes the building department and code enforcement, said the DBD was created between 2008 and 2010 during a big push for development of Madison Street. At that time, village officials “believed that restaurants had the potential to create adverse impacts, specifically on parking.” As a result, restaurants were added to the “conditional use only” list, which includes mortuaries and bed and breakfast inns and hotels. Village officials never saw the problems associated with restaurants that had been anticipated, but they have remained on the list until now.

“Conditional use” means that special village government approval is required for the type of businesses on the list to open. This process can take as long as 60-90 days and is an impediment to new businesses, a time period that is unattractive to potential Forest Park restaurant owners.

For years, says Glinke, the issue of striking restaurants from the list has “come up repeatedly.” Taking it off the list is “good for business,” he added, since he gets calls from people “every day” wanting to open restaurants in Forest Park.

Although not part of the DBD, a good example, he said, is the Long John Silver’s restaurant that recently closed on Harlem Avenue, a street, he says, that gets 45,000 cars passing it every day. The property has a drive-through attached to the restaurant that, if not put to use for the same purpose within 180 days, can no longer be used as a drive-through. Allowing restaurants to get quicker approval means that the village will be more attractive to restaurant owners, meaning that Forest Park will generate more revenue and have fewer empty buildings.

Commissioner Ryan Nero said approval of the change “seems like it would be a slam dunk” for the village. The board voted unanimously to pass the ordinance.

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