Members of the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals found themselves sorting out a case of mistaken identity during a Sept. 7 public hearing for a request for a special-use permit to operate a vehicle upholstery business, BM Custom, at 6212 Roosevelt Rd.
The source of the conundrum was the overwhelming racket stemming from the former Associated Tire & Battery property, which has caused much consternation for those living in southeast Oak Park. BM Custom, which has yet to open, occupies a small portion of the property, leading many neighbors to believe it is at fault for the constant clamor. Jeremy Storey, owner of BM Custom, maintains the public’s blame is misdirected. His business, he said, specializes only in cosmetic, non-mechanic auto work that does not require vehicle lifts or power tools.
Storey was able to secure the unanimous approval of the ZBA for his request, but the mystery remains as to who is to blame for the auto-related auditory problem.
“Who the hey-diddle-diddle is making all this noise?” ZBA member Kimberlee Smith finally asked.
The noise is seemingly coming from a different tenant of the building, specializing in automobile work, which is operating without a business license, according to Storey.
Wednesday Journal is waiting to hear from the village of Oak Park regarding the status of the clandestine business’ license. However, Zoning Board Administrator Mike Bruce shared that the village is investigating the 6210 Roosevelt Road property, the portion of the building believed to be the cause of the noise.
This came at the end of the hearing, long after Storey presented his case and after the zoning board had taken its vote. The information also came after a litany of public comments imploring the ZBA to reject Storey’s request. Many commenters said they had filed noise complaints with the police.
One of those commenters, Eileen Wehrheim, later apologized to Storey for thinking his business at fault for the noise. She previously told the board in her written statement that she and her husband believed Storey’s business and that of the neighboring tenant “are one and the same.”
“It does sound like he has nothing to do with the ones causing the problem,” Wehrheim said of Storey.
The neighboring tenant’s business, Storey’s attorney told the ZBA, often has 15 to 20 loud cars parked outside at one time, with dismantled automobile parts littering the area. Those vehicles were referred to as “tuner cars,” which are cars that have had parts changed for increased performance, including loud exhaust pipes and engines.
The noise from revving a tuner car’s engine can rattle windows, according to Storey, who also lives in southeast Oak Park, only two doors down from his business. He told the zoning board that he often hears those tuner cars at 3 and 4 a.m.
“My client joins in on those [noise] complaints,” said Storey’s attorney, Raj Sanghvi.
The proximity of the Berwyn-based bar, Mike’s Place, just down the street, also contributes to noise in the area, according to Storey. People leaving the bar blast music and frequently ignore traffic laws.
“I have video footage of cars not stopping at the stop sign; they literally speed through the alley,” Storey said.
Although BM Custom is not currently open, Storey admitted he briefly opened the business when his lease started, roughly five months ago, not knowing he needed a zoning permit. After being issued a citation, he said he ceased operations.
The support of the ZBA puts Storey’s application in a favorable position, but the village board will make the final decision. In the meantime, he can rest assured knowing that his name has been cleared of noise allegations in the ZBA’s eyes.
“This gentleman does not seem to be at the heart of these issues,” Smith said.