Neighbors sue Oak Park over affordable housing project

Lawsuit says proposal runs counter to zoning code

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A group of residents who live near a yet-to-be-constructed 37-unit affordable housing building are suing the village of Oak Park, saying its approval of the development runs afoul of the village's zoning code.

Nicholas Diorio, Nestor Feliciano, John M. Clark and Vincent and Deborah Bray object to the village's approval of the proposal at the corner of South Oak Park Avenue and Van Buren Street by Community Builders Inc.

Plaintiffs' attorney Keith Vogt did not return calls requesting comment. Oak Park village spokesman David Powers said that "as a matter of policy and practice, we do comment on possible or pending litigation."

The lawsuit, filed in early December in the Cook County Circuit Court notes that the village's zoning ordinance states that any variance from the zoning ordinance "will not impair an adequate supply of light and air to adjacent properties, substantially increase congestion in public streets, increase the danger of fire, endanger public safety or impair property values within the neighborhood."

The proposal asked for variances from the zoning code, including: allowing 37 units, which is 21 over the allowed zoning; increasing the height of the building from the allowed 45 feet to 48 feet; and reducing the required number of parking spaces from 37 to 23.

The lawsuit argues that the developer did not demonstrate that the development "would not cause impairment to properties, including property values, closest to the development, in violation of the 2017 VOP Zoning Ordinance."

The lawsuit also takes issue with the development's proposed use of the alley behind the proposed development, showing that on Dec. 15, 2005, the Oak Park Zoning Commission rejected a proposal to put a drive-thru bank at the site, because it would have used the alley as its principle entrance. The zoning commission found that the alley was "too narrow for two-way traffic" and would "increase the number of conflicts between vehicles."

They argue that the proposed development would cause a similar problem.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees approved the project in mid-October and has committed $500,000 from an affordable housing fund to the $14.6-million project.

Reader Comments

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Taneisha Willour  

Posted: January 20th, 2019 9:28 AM

I love the people suggesting those who cannot afford to live in Oak Park move. Be sure to keep that same energy and say it to their faces while they're bagging your groceries at Pete's or Whole Foods, serving your dinner at Winberie's, finding your kiddie's book at the library, tearing your ticket at Lake Theatre... You think any of those people are making the $80k it takes to have a comfortable life here?

Donica Wilson-Simons from Oak park  

Posted: January 20th, 2019 9:01 AM

Oak park USED to be affordable until it was flooded with city dwellers, and their overdeveloped sense of entitlement. I thought this community was about acceptance, and integration. Anybody that feels they shouldn't have to share their community with people who need affordable housing dont belong here.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 18th, 2019 8:22 PM

Stephen: I assume you are talking about Albion and Vantage since both can be seen from your house. Both those developments are marketed as luxury rentals. To the best of my knowledge the Village did not mandate the developers set aside a number of "affordable" apartments within . They (the developers) literally bought their way out of this "inconvenience" by agreeing to make a monetary contribution to the Oak Park affordable housing fund. So unless I am wrong about this - and that is certainly possible - my criticism stands.

Ellen Edwards  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 9:02 PM

I agree with Christopher Goode. It's a reasonably sized project in scale with the neighborhood and a good way to provide attractive affordable housing. Most tenants won't have cars. Block out the sun? Get serious - the height variance us only 3 additional feet! It's not a high rise. As for the $500,000 the developers are getting, I call that a smart investment in our community because it helps ensure socioeconomic diversity. I hope this NIMBY lawsuit gets thrown out.

Christopher Goode  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 3:25 PM

This is a good project and a good reason why a zoning board is empowered to allow changes to zoning requirements. It is certainly in scale with the buildings along Oak Park Avenue and it probably still has too many parking spaces for its use and location rather than not enough. The affordable housing project at Madison and Grove that has Sugarbeet for a tenant transformed an eyesore into a beauty and has since proven that the Nimby opposition was entirely unjustified. I hope the court makes short work of ending this lawsuit and that they transform this ugly vacant lot into a similarly attractive project that makes good use of this site and enhances the neighborhood.

Robert Milstein  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 3:23 PM

NIMBY labels are ludicrous. This is a question of zoning. Why do we zone? We do it to ensure the best use of land. Otherwise we are like Houston, a hodgepodge, that make developers money. Stop marginalizing people with other opinions and stick to the facts. Is this the best use of this parcel? Whet will be the consequences? Any unintended one's possible? Read your fellow citizens views. Seek to understand first. Also, to those who say love it or leave doesn't work that way. We all get our views. I wouldn't mind if the developers went to Naperville.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 3:15 PM

@ Anna - telling current citizens to move is BS. If you can't afford Oak Park, there are very affordable places to rent in every single community around us. You can live there, don't tell other people to move. This so called affordability crisis is a total make believe farce. Instead of calling people NIMBY's start listening to your neighbors. And for the record, I do not live near that project, but I respect the people who do.

Stephen Hartmann  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 1:11 PM

Bruce. They have in fact built bigger project in the FLW neighborhood and I can see 2 of them from my front porch. There is a big difference between a bank using an alley and an apartment using an alley. There is a desperate need for affordable housing in this region. It has been stymied in other areas by similar attitudes. We as a community need to embrace this challenge and as we have for decades.

Anna Marie Navarro  

Posted: January 17th, 2019 9:21 AM

NIMBYs as far as the eye can see. If you don't want to live in a dense, walkable neighborhood, perhaps Oak Park isn't the right town for you. I hear they have huge lots in Naperville.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 10:53 PM

Hey Neal what do you think would have happened if they tried to build this over dense project in the FLW district? NIMBY indeed!

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 8:22 PM

Ben, this isn't about affordable housing. It's about gross overbuilding on a site. The neighbors will lose the value in their homes when the building blocks out the sun.

Ben DeBruin  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 8:10 PM

Neal, this is affordable housing a block from a train station. Most tenants will not own cars. Why shouldn't we want density near train stations. This lawsuit has been filed by a bunch of NIMBYs who don't think anyone that doesn't have a bunch of $$ should be able to live close to public transportation like they do. This is a good project and a sad lawsuit in my opinion.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 4:44 PM

I'm glad these good citizens filed this suit. This is not about objecting to affordable housing. This is about a village ignoring the will of the people who live next to this development. This grossly oversized development will contain 37 units with 23 parking spaces, on a lot zoned for 16 units. The ingress and egress for the entire building's parking is through a narrow 1 lane alley. To assume that the neighbors will not be adversely affected is ludicrous.

Dion Ewald  

Posted: January 16th, 2019 3:46 PM

Have you had enough of this board? I certainly have.

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