In multiple River Forest neighboring blocks in the Madison Street Corridor TIF district, residents are fighting a similar fight to that of Oak Park residents regarding zoning changes that allow for development of high-rise buildings which push boundaries beyond what fits in an old, established residential area.
The meetings in RF have been ongoing for months. Neighbors want development which is appropriate for the area. We welcome affordable housing which can be implemented without over-burdening a compact area. Density, available parking, and traffic safety are real concerns, with the suggestion of a main street being closed off.
Village consultant John Houseal, has, over many months, misstated current zoning laws and pushed for higher density and street barriers to the Madison Street-Ashland Avenue intersection. He recommends area zoning changes to the village board for a massive building (right next to the sidewalk) which is one to two additional stories in height, allowing for many studio apartments and inadequate parking. He suggests small first-floor retail spaces for businesses which appear to be too costly for local businesses.
We do not want empty storefronts — a nationwide trend in these types of buildings. The Illinois House Bill 0202, the Vacancy Fraud Act, was introduced to help curb misuse of empty storefronts by building owners. Houseal’s proposed 40-unit buildings upon a small footprint of land, stories higher than adjacent ones, will be detrimental.
The long and short of it: The village of River Forest reps are pushing an agenda that is in direct conflict with its own Village Comprehensive Plan and its core objectives. There are ways to bring in taxes and fulfill our role as a responsible village, with respect to adding affordable housing, without overbuilding a compact area to the point that the livability of the neighborhoods is compromised.
As in Oak Park, there are concerned citizens speaking out — local neighbors who want clear planning for the good of all. River Forest isn’t listening in its rush for income and a quick fix. It is shameful.