The owner of the property at 327 Home Ave., where a residential building (above) was divided many years ago into four units, wants to build a four-unit townhome development on the vacant lot immediately to the south, at 329 Home Ave. | Alex Rogals

At the Sept. 22 Oak Park Plan Commission Meeting on the application for a zoning map amendment for 327-329 Home Ave., the five commissioners present failed to reach the necessary majority to approve 327 Home Ave. LLC’s request for a zoning change.

The corporation, represented at the hearing by John Schiess, is requesting a zoning map amendment from the current R-5 zoning to R-6. If granted, the R-6 designation would allow a developer to build an additional 12 units on the two lots spanned by 327 and 329 Home Ave., in addition to the four units already present in the existing building at 327 Home Ave., for a total of 16 units on the two lots.

The manager of 327 Home Ave. LLC is Gary Collins, who is a board member of Growing Community Media, which publishes the Wednesday Journal. Schiess stated that the new building would be limited to four units, designed by architect Bob Mifflin and built by River Forest-based Levy Homes.

A site plan provided to the village (above) shows how the proposed townhome building would be situated on the property. (CREDIT: R A Mifflin architect)

Schiess called the move to R-6 zoning a transition between the zoned R-7 condo building to the south of the project at 339 Home Ave. and the zoned R-5 single family homes to the north of the development. Schiess indicated that failure to grant the zoning map amendment would pose financial and personal hardship for Collins, who Schiess says plans to live in one unit and rent the remaining three.

Village Planner Craig Failor noted that all comments submitted to the Plan Commission prior to the meeting in writing were considered and that of the comments, there was one phone call from an Oak Park resident in favor of the zoning map change. All other comments were against the zoning map amendment.

An internal project review team made up of personnel from Development Customer Services, Public Works, Police, Fire and Law Departments, determined that staff had no objection to the zoning map change if a deed restriction were in place limiting the number of units in the new building to four. Absent such a deed restriction, staff indicated they would not support the application.

Plan Commission attorney Gregory Smith indicated commissioners could not consider a future deed restriction in making their decision, noting, “The deed restriction is a hypothetical.”

Many neighbors of the proposed development spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing. Bryan Lantz objected that Plan Commissioner Tom Gallagher has a business and personal relationship with Collins and did not recuse himself from the vote. Lantz also voiced his opinion that the zoning amendment was incompatible with the historic character of the neighborhood.

Several residents of the adjacent condominium building expressed concern that if built as proposed, the new building would lower their property values by blocking light in their units and taking away green space and trees from the neighborhood, while increasing density and adding more cars and residents to an already congested area.

Some rejected Schiess’ representation that the proposed new building, along with garages and the existing building would only take up 35 percent of the green space on lots and asked for clarification from the architect on the amount of lot that is currently green space and the amount that would remain green space if the lot is developed under the representations in the application.

Commissioner Gallagher voiced his support for the zoning map change stating that he was focused on increasing revenue to the village and has “no problem with increased density.”

Commissioner Paul Beckwith agreed, stating, “If we have the opportunity to make some money, we should do that.”

Commissioner Jon Hale liked Schiess’ description of the lot as transition zoning and said that aside from revenue, he would like to see more housing in the village.

Commissioner Nick Bridge did not recommend approving the application.

“I’m not willing to give anyone carte blanche to build another 12 units on this lot,” Bridge said. “I’m not sure another four is reasonable.”

Plan Commission Chairperson Iris Sims said that aside from the tax revenue piece, she did not see how the zoning amendment could be approved as it did not meet the standards the Plan Commission had to consider, namely compatibility with nearby properties, impact on the overall character of the neighborhood and the probable significant impact on neighbors’ property values.

With only five of nine commissioners present, and three voting in favor and two voting against, the Plan Commission failed to achieve the five-vote threshold needed to recommend approval of the application.

The developer, represented by Schiess, was given the opportunity to hold the vote until more commissioners could be present at the Oct. 6 meeting or forward the decision to the village board. According to Schiess, his client accepted the Plan Commission’s decision and wanted to move forward to the village board.

The date for the village board to consider the Plan Commission’s recommendation has not been set. Failor says the village board will be limited to information already in the record from the public hearing. Like plan commissioners, the village trustees cannot put conditions such as a deed restriction on a map amendment application.

Prior to the village board meeting, village staff will provide trustees with a recommendation and the reasons for that position.

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