Hold off on Madison developments until the master plan is complete

Opinion

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As members of the Neighbors for Madison Renewal (NMR), we would like to thank the Village of Oak Park for their efforts in developing a master plan for the Madison Street Corridor. This commercial street presents a significant opportunity for the village to revitalize existing businesses and buildings while offering opportunities for new development.

The NMR was organized in June of 2005 in response to a development proposed by John Schiess, representing developer Alex Troyanovsky. The proposal was to build a six-story, mixed-use building at 827 Madison St. with first-floor retail and five stories of residential units. The height of the proposed development was estimated at 74 feet and was to be built covering the entire lot. This proposal exceeded the zoning requirement for height, which is 50 feet, and lot coverage, which is 75 percent. The lack of setbacks left the very narrow sidewalks without any possibility of attractive, pedestrian-friendly landscaping. Naturally we were very alarmed about the impact such a huge development would have on the character of our neighborhood.

The neighbors along Madison became concerned that development of properties along the street would proceed on a piecemeal basis without any community oversight or input. Each proposed development could request any number of zoning variances without providing adequate compensating benefits to the community in the form of green space, accessibility, traffic flow, parking, or safety. Over the last six months, we have gathered neighbors from both sides of Madison between Euclid and Wenonah and contacted trustees as well as other groups along the rest of the street. NMR created a set of guidelines for development and land usage along our portion of Madison Street. The guidelines were endorsed by 98 percent of the neighbors.

We encouraged the village trustees to consider developing a master plan for the entire length of Madison. Since then we have conducted or attended numerous meetings to keep our neighborhood informed. This information is available on our website, www.renewmadison.com.

Our initial request for a holistic plan for Madison is beginning to take shape. The village has hired Vandewalle and Associates to develop a plan for the corridor and has appointed a steering committee, composed of a variety of individuals representing stakeholders along the street. The consultant has conducted a number of public input meetings, researched traffic and potential businesses and inventoried the buildings. They are now in the process of preparing various alternative visions for Madison.

Members of Neighbors for Madison Renewal have invested an enormous amount of personal time and energy into these processes, and we are very concerned that major re-development projects for Madison Street will be submitted to the village under the Planned Unit Development (PUD) procedure before the master plan is completed.

This could happen at any time. There are many properties in play along the 800 block of Madison. Mr. Troyanovsky controls two blocks of property between Oak Park Avenue and Carpenter on the south side of Madison. This particular developer is also in negotiation for properties along the north side of Madison including the Chase Bank facility and ComCast. Rumors also circulate about other properties that have changed hands or owners who are exploring significant changes to the use of their property.

In the absence of a master plan, neighbors and businesses will be left on their own to evaluate the proposals and determine the pros and cons of a project. We will then have to argue our viewpoints before the plan commission and the village board on individual proposals that do not meet village zoning ordinances or violate the spirit of the proposed master plan guidelines.

While Neighbors for Madison Renewal will continue to actively participate in the Madison Street Corridor Master Plan, we are also prepared to address any individual proposals that do not meet village zoning ordinances.

We also plan to follow the implementation progress of the Madison Street Corridor Master Plan to make sure that it does not become another plan on the shelf at village hall.

In the meantime, we hope that no developments for Madison Street will be proposed over the next four months. We expect that the Madison Street Corridor Master Plan, when approved, will provide clear direction for developers, and be a model for well-planned, holistic and thoughtful development along Madison Street as well as for the Village of Oak Park.

Michael Awe, Ted Despotes, Dave Heidorn, Linda Hill, Angela Larson, Melissa Mickelberry, Fred Pospisil, Lisa Z. Sigel, Henry and Linda Zimoch
Neighbors for Madison Renewal

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