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 townhome development on the vacant lot immediately to the south, at 329 Home Ave.

On Jan. 17, a super majority of Oak Park’s village board voted to grant the zoning map amendment sought by the developers of 327-329 Home Ave., 327 Home Ave., LLC., which is owned by Gary Collins.

On Sept. 22, the village’s Plan Commission denied the amendment change by a vote of three in favor of the change and two against. Without a quorum of five votes, the request was denied and 327 Home Ave., LLC opted to bring the request to the full village board without trying to reach a quorum at another date with the entire Plan Commission.

Collins, who is a board member of Growing Community Media which publishes Wednesday Journal, sought to amend the zoning map for the vacant lot at 327 and 329 Home Ave. from R-5, two-family residential zoning, to R-6, multiple family zoning. The R-6 designation would allow him to build up to 16 units on the two lots.

Through his representative, architect John Schiess, Collins represented at the September meeting that it was his intention to leave the existing four-unit building at 329 Home as is and build a four-unit townhome on the lot at 327.

Courtesy Village of Oak Park The developer has hired architect Bob Mifflin to design a brick and stone townhouse building (above) for the lot at 329 Home Ave.

Prior to the Jan. 17 village board meeting, 327 Home Ave., LLC. voluntarily filed a deed restriction with the village limiting each lot to four units. The deed restriction transfers with the property if it is sold, and Village Attorney Paul Stephanides told the board that if the developer or a successor sought to build more than four units on the lot, the village could take them to court to enforce the deed restriction.

Seven neighbors of the proposed development spoke against the zoning map amendment at the village board meeting. Chief among their concerns were density, traffic, destruction of green space and damage to the historic character of the neighborhood, which is in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District. Nancy Cowles, who lives in the adjacent condominium building at 339 Home Ave., presented a petition of 300 signatures against the proposed zoning map amendment.

Plan Commission Chair Iris Sims noted that by law, zoning map amendments cannot contain extra text, so the deed restriction should not be considered in voting for or against the amendment.  Village Development Customer Services Director Tammie Grossman said that while text cannot be added to the amendment, the deed restriction had been filed and was in place.

Trustees Lucia Robinson, Cory Wesley, Susan Buchanan, Chibuike Enya, Ravi Parakkat and President Vicki Scaman voted in favor of the zoning map amendment. They were swayed by multiple factors including the deed restriction; Schiess’ declaration that without the zoning map amendment, they could simply build a conforming two-flat that was the exact same size as the four townhomes planned for the space; and by Collin’s representations that he is a long-time community resident who values historic preservation and that he plans to live in the development himself.

Buchanan, Scaman and Wesley also cited increased density as a reason to approve the amendment. Trustee Jim Taglia was the lone vote against the amendment, stating that he is open to development but he doesn’t want to risk the historic nature of the neighborhood, which is what makes Oak Park unique.

Under the R-6 designation, the developers will be subject to village zoning requirements as to setbacks, building height and lot coverage. The R-6 designation gives the developer the right to cover more of the lot with a building. R-5 zoning limits coverage to 65% for single family homes and 70% for two flats. R-6 designation permits multi-family buildings to cover up to 75% of the lot.

Due to the lot’s location in a historic district, the Historical Preservation Commission will review architectural plans for the building when the developer submits them. The HPC review is purely advisory.

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