Neighbors near Roosevelt Road are demanding the Oak Park village board take action against the mysterious tenants of the former Associated Tire & Battery Co. property for excess vehicular traffic and late-night noise that has been plaguing the area for over a year. Only one tenant has been confirmed to be occupying a part of the property, but neighbors believe there are two others conducting business outside of traditional hours and without proper licensing.
“We’ve heard loud revving of engines, cars racing down the alley between Lombard and Harvey [avenues] toward that building, motorcycles racing down Lombard and illegally driving through the cul-de-sac,” said Mike Smith.
In an open letter to the village board, 28 residents living in the 1150 blocks of South Lombard Avenue and South Harvey Avenue, including Smith, expressed their “frustration” at the “lack of village oversight” over the “nuisance activities” taking place at the property, which extends from 6200 to 6216 Roosevelt Rd.
Wednesday Journal, which published the letter, attempted to contact the tenants and the building owner by visiting the property several times during normal business hours. Doors were locked but parked cars and vehicle parts were visible on the property.
“This property has several tenants that each in their turn have contributed to excessive revving of engines at all hours, blocking the alley parallel to Roosevelt between Lombard and Harvey for hours at a time, failing to maintain the property by leaving broken-down cars, car parts, and other trash around the property, blocking access to the north/south alley and preventing residents on Lombard and Harvey [Avenues] from accessing their garages through the alley, and driving at dangerous speeds through the neighborhood streets and alleys to access the building,” the letter reads.
Neighbors lodged 11 complaints with police between May 2021 and September 2022, according to data obtained by the Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request. While the majority of the complaints were noise-related, reckless driving and parking violations were also reported.
“It’s hard to notify the police because by the time we call them, or by the time they actually show up, [the people causing the nuisance] are either gone or the noise has stopped,” said Katie Ingrao-Sniegowski, who also signed the letter.
The nuisance activities happen inconsistently and at odd hours, making it difficult for neighbors to know who is responsible for them. Neighbors are also reluctant to confront the tenants as they have been aggressive, according to Ingrao-Sniegowski. Many of the signatories declined to comment further for fear of being retaliated against by the property’s tenants.
“We really just want village staff and our trustees to pay attention to these issues because it really does affect our lives down here,” said Ingrao-Sniegowski.
The village board will soon become acquainted with the property’s one known tenant, BM Custom, a custom car upholstering business occupying 6212 Roosevelt Rd. The owner of BM Custom, Jeremy Storey, is seeking a special use permit from the village to operate his business.
At his Sept. 7 Zoning Board of Appeals hearing, Storey said he and his business were not at fault for the illegally parked vehicles, alley traffic and extreme noise coming from the property, despite neighbors complaining otherwise. He also claimed to be concerned about the nuisance activities, for which he said another tenant specializing in automobile work was responsible.
ZBA administrator Mike Bruce shared Sept. 7 that the village is investigating 6210 Roosevelt Rd., the portion of the building believed to be the cause of the noise. No business license records were found in association with that property.
Wednesday Journal obtained copies of two identical letters sent Sept. 12 by the Village of Oak Park to the property’s owner, Polar Properties LLC, and to the unnamed mystery tenant, notifying them that they had 30 days to cease storing vehicles on the property. If they fail to do so, the village warned a property inspection would be conducted at 2 p.m., Oct. 18.
The letters warned the addressees that village staff had previously observed vehicles being stored on the ground floor of the property, which is not permitted in the district. The two letters were signed by Bruce, Neighborhood Services Manager Jeff Prior and Neighborhood Services Manager Tina Brown.
“The facility is also causing excessive amounts of traffic in the public alley, vehicle noise, and loud music that is negatively impacting the adjacent residential neighborhood,” the letters read.
Wednesday Journal awaits confirmation from the Village of Oak Park regarding if the Oct. 18 inspection is going forward.
Storey was able to score unanimous support from the ZBA, but neighbors are urging the village board to vote against giving him his special use permit, arguing that BM Custom has contributed to the problems facing the neighborhood. The village board has final approval over Storey’s permit request.
“While the permit [process] plays out, he’s not allowed to operate, and he shouldn’t be blocking the alley,” said Ingrao-Sniegowski. “We’ve seen otherwise.”
Denying Storey’s permit request is only one piece of what neighbors are requesting of the village. Neighbors want the village to uncover the identities of the mystery tenants.
“We’ve had a very difficult time even finding out things like, who is using that space? What are they using it for? What kind of business are they conducting? And why is it happening so much at all hours of the day?” said Smith.
Ultimately, the neighbors wish to see the property owner, as well as the mystery tenants held accountable for lowering the quality of life of the families that live near the property.
“It’s a commercial district, we understand that,” said Ingrao-Sniegowski. “But at the same time, this is also our neighborhood and we need to be good neighbors to each other.”