At their Oct. 7 meeting, members of the Plan Commission voted to approve an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to authorize the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Oak Park. ADUs have been used in many areas of the country as a means of developing important additional housing opportunities for our burgeoning older population.

We, along with many other Oak Parkers, have been following this issue since the commission began considering it last June. We enthusiastically supported the draft ordinance as initially proposed. However, in an 11th-hour amendment to the ordinance that was adopted without community input or even full discussion by the commissioners, the Plan Commission gutted the proposed ordinance amendment. The plan commissioners voted 5-3 to eliminate the possible development of ADUs in the basements or attics of existing Oak Park homes. 

What is left in the proposed ordinance is the more costly option of developing coach house dwellings or stand-alone structures built in the back or side yards of existing properties. 

This decision is not in the best interests of Oak Park.

ADUs are a popular option for older people to use to create a new apartment for a family member or caregiver so that the owners can continue to reside in their current home while they age in place with appropriate care. In other instances, some older owners have built new accessible units in their homes in which they can reside, while the main dwelling unit is sold or leased to a family member. ADUs are a powerful tool that can greatly assist in the aging process.

As now written, the regressive proposed ordinance amendment will shortly go before the Oak Park Village Board for possible inclusion in the Zoning Code. Regretfully, we recommend that the village board reject this flawed ordinance amendment and send it back to the Plan Commission for full discussion that also allows for input from the public. To decide this important issue without full public discussion and input is contrary to Oak Park’s standards of open government.

If you are interested in learning more about ADUs and how they have been used creatively in other parts of the country, we recommend that you read The ABCs of ADUs which is available for download from the AARP website. Both Evanston and Chicago have recently adopted ordinance revisions that permit the development of ADUs within existing structures. We believe that Oak Park should learn from their example.

Marc Blesoff, Betsy Kelly, Brooke McMillin, Sandra Sokol, Edward Solan, Susan Stall

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