Despite some concerns from the public about the building’s mass and its potential impact on traffic, Oak Park’s village board approved construction of the proposed seven-story senior housing development that will span 711 to 725 Madison St. during a Feb. 3 meeting.
“The planned development in effect usurps anything in the zoning ordinance,” said Chris Donovan in public comment.
Donovan quoted a section of the planned development ordinance, “The proposed use or combination of uses will not substantially diminish the use or enjoyment of other properties in the vicinity of those uses or combination of uses permitted by the zoning ordinance of the village.”
Donovan implored the board to consider the impact the development would have on the people who live in the adjacent neighborhoods.
“I would ask you to ask the neighbors how they feel about an 84-foot edifice at the end of their block or right next door to them,” he said. “Of course, it’s not in your back yard, so what would you care?”
Sandy Pedersen, whose home will be in very close proximity to the complex, voiced her appreciation for the developer’s consideration of the concerns from previous plan commission meetings.
However, Pedersen thought the complex’s new scaled down design wasn’t enough.
“This building is still too tall, too dense, too close to a residential neighborhood and just too massive for the site,” she said. “I’m very concerned about the structural integrity of my home, and neighbors’ as well, during this extensive two-year process.”
Dr. David Ubogy of Loyola University Medical Center expressed concern that putting a cul de sac on Euclid Avenue, as planned, would impede the response time of emergency vehicles.
Trustee Deno Andrews had concerns regarding a portion of the redevelopment agreement that prohibits the developer, American House/REDICO, from seeking tax exemptions for a period of 20 years.
According to Tammie Grossman, village development customer service director, the village expects to get $489,00 in real estate taxes from the development per year.
“We’re going to put a senior building here. This is going to have increased calls for ambulance and fire. It’s going to have traffic,” Andrews said. “I don’t see, even 20 years down, telling taxpayers, ‘Now, you’re on the hook for their profitability.’ That doesn’t fly well with me.”
Trustee Jim Taglia agreed, but didn’t want to pass up on this opportunity.
“I think we should be mindful of the amount of tax revenue collected but it’s not the only thing to think about when creating housing for seniors,” said Trustee Simone Boutet.
Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla wanted to know whether affordability of units was considered.
“Isn’t this developer a developer that does affordable units for seniors?” she asked.
“When the village board passed the inclusionary housing ordinance,” Grossman started.
“I’m aware that Madison Street is not on there,” Walker-Peddakotla said.
“It was excluded. This particular developer does not build affordable housing developments,” Grossman said. “They have purchased affordable housing developments in other states and so they do have some affordable senior housing developments in their portfolio, but that’s not what they primarily do as developers.”
American House/REDICO representative Samantha Eckhout clarified that the affordable senior housing developments Walker-Peddakotla referred to were financed through the federal low-income tax program.
“My whole problem with this is that affordability is not just a problem for millennials and young people. It’s also a problem for people with fixed incomes and seniors,” Walker-Peddakotla said.
“We don’t have enough affordable housing for seniors if we want them to stay in place in Oak Park,” she said, “and the fact that we’ve excluded this entire development on Madison Street from the [inclusionary zoning ordinance] and we haven’t even asked if this is even a possibility to be included in this tax credit is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion.”
Walker-Peddakotla held true to her opinion and voted accordingly, casting a negative vote. Trustees Susan Buchanan, Dan Moroney, Taglia, Andrews, Boutet and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb voted in favor.
Walker-Peddakotla also voted against the portion of the project calling for the vacation of Euclid Avenue for the construction of a cul de sac.
This post has been updated to correct an error in the voting breakout.