In May, River Forest trustees unanimously approved a comprehensive plan for the village, the first in more than 15 years. An extensive, 100-plus-page document, it addresses topics relevant to development, including future land use, parks and open space, corridor framework plans and more.
“This is 18 months of hard work,” said Village President Cathy Adduci. “This is a great accomplishment for this board.”
Last updated in 2003, the new plan specifically discussed building heights, the most debated section due not only to the nature of the discussion but the confusion surrounding the plan’s “recommended maximum building heights,” which are different from official zoning code.
Village proactive on health and safety
After more than a year of effort, River Forest was named the fifth dementia-friendly community in Illinois. On Feb. 11, the designation was officially given to the village. It was an undertaking of compassion and the result of collaboration between the village, River Forest Township, Oak Park-River Forest Senior Services, and more.
“It’s not just saying we understand dementia-friendly; it’s saying we support our partners who provide supportive resources to families, the caretakers who support [those with] dementia, Alzheimer’s patients. So really it’s a community-wide support and recognition,” said Adduci.
In another proactive move to protect the health of residents, the village board voted 6-0 to prohibit the sale of flavored electronic cigarette products in River Forest. Adduci said that although the state was proposing similar action at the time, she did not want the village to wait. After the vote, she thanked the trustees. “I want to thank you for being a leader,” she said to her colleagues at the village board meeting on Sept. 23.
Village trustee elections bring change
The village board changed on April 2, when three newcomers – Kathleen “Katie” Brennan, Erika Bachner and Robert O’Connell were voted on to the village board of trustees. Brennan received more votes than any other candidate in the race. Bachner was second and O’Connell came in third.
River Forest ready for marijuana in 2020
With adult sales and usage of recreational marijuana becoming legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, the village of River Forest debated the pros and cons of allowing cannabis in town. Ultimately, the village trustees voted to allow the sale of pot, with some restrictions. Dispensaries must be located at least 100 feet from schools, churches, parks and daycare centers, and only in commercial areas. They must apply for a special use permit, and their operating hours are limited to no earlier than 10 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m.
Deer overpopulation problem spurs debate
Throughout the year, trustees have heard public opinion on a possible deer culling program to control the number of deer in the area. Set to vote in November on a contract with Cook County to provide sharpshooters in three forest preserves – Thatcher Woods, G.A.R. Woods and Thomas Jefferson Woods – such a large group of residents came out to protest that the board agreed to wait on the vote. Trustees decided to form a task force to look at all the options, but at a December meeting they voted to proceed with the culling agreement and vote on it in January 2020.
Adduci urged the board to vote in favor of the culling program, stating that “It’s our job, as elected officials, to ensure the health and safety of our community.”
Mediation solves David and Goliath
With a strong and vocal group of residents, the leadership of Adduci and State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), a deal between the village, Metra and Union Pacific (UP) was reached to address problems resulting from the UP and Metra Third Rail Expansion project.
Noise and safety complaints, which were long ignored by Metra and UP, were finally addressed through a plan to help mitigate the problems created by the railroad expansion.
The solution involved a sound barrier, a security fence, and a new “Acoustiblok” fence Metra will install as part of its pilot program to test the product.
Controversial senior development begins
In 2019, construction began on The Sheridan at Harlem and Chicago avenues. The senior development was controversial, with many residents speaking out against it, but was approved unanimously by village trustees in Oct. 2018.
The Sheridan will house 92 assisted-living and 33 memory-care service apartments. Sitting on 1.5 acres, it will have a pitched roof that will rise to 68.5 feet on the Harlem side, more than double the village’s allowable limit of 30 feet.
The development, however, aligns with the town’s efforts to be dementia friendly, and it will generate substantial tax revenue for the village.