If you want to make changes to an approved building project in Oak Park, it had better be for a good reason, and if you're going change the plan, the time to let the village know is before you've already built it.
That was the message the village board sent last week after two approved projects came back before the board with revisions.
In the first, architect John Schiess presented the board with a dozen changes to the Opera Club, the six-story mixed-use building under construction at the corner of Marion Street and South Boulevard, the site of the former Mar Lac Banquets building.
Village Planner Craig Failor told the board that the changes were "pretty much cosmetic," but that some of the changes might alter the appearance of the building.
One such example was a proposal to change some of the facade from renaissance stone, which Schiess' builder said was too porous and might let in too much moisture, to a more durable brick. When trustees balked at the suggestion, Schiess agreed to keep the original stone material, which can be treated with paraffin to increase impermeability.
But other changes weren't so easily resolved. Some trustees were irked by the fact that Schiess had continued building with other materials and changes that had not been approved.
For example, when village code requirements added structural bulk to the building, thus decreasing space available for condominiums, Schiess added some balconies?#34;so as to let light into what would otherwise be spaces made too dark because of the change in the building plan, he said.
Also, Schiess substituted bricks without the board's approval and built up to the sixth floor on one side of the building with the new material. The bricks, known as Norman bricks, are the same height as the original ones, but are 11 inches long?#34;nearly 3.5 inches longer than those originally approved.
Failor said a plan commissioner he talked with about the bricks said the change would improve the design, and Schiess said he could have opted for a cheaper, shorter brick that would not have made the brick details on the facade look as nice.
But trustees were concerned less about the architectural specifics and more about Schiess' timing.
"Follow the law. Follow the ordinance," said Trustee Robert Milstein. "If someone comes to us after the fact, why is there a law?"
"It makes the entire system seem less legitimate or more manipulative," said Trustee Geoff Baker.
The board approved most of the 12 changes as many were caused by village code requirements or the proximity of the building to power lines.
After deliberating, the board remanded some of the changes to the Plan Commission for their input. Schiess said after the meeting that the process would not likely delay construction.
In an unrelated matter, MB Financial Bank submitted a request to change the design of the drive-thru branch it wants to construct at 6621 North Ave.
All drive-thrus need a special-use permit, which the board previously granted the bank. However, the bank now wants to change the design of the building from the originally proposed "curvilinear" building to a rectangular design.
While technically not a change to the use, trustees said the change would need to be reviewed by the community. Community input is an important part of the approval process, so to later change what the bank would look like would be to invalidate that input, trustees said.
The bank's architect explained that the new design is part of a new branding effort that accompanies MB's new "Betsimpsier" (Better. Simpler. Easier.) marketing campaign.
The board sent the proposed change back to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which recommended the approval of the special use originally, urging them to widely publicize the matter to allow neighbors the chance to weigh in.
The board will ask the ZBA to hear the matter expeditiously, but it might have to wait to get onto the ZBA's calendar, which is filled up three months into the future.
In other business, the board:
- Approved a funding request for a Downtown Oak Park rebate program to attract shoppers during fall months while the Holley Court garage will undergo reconstruction and expansion. Because the money comes from taxes that the business district levies on itself, trustees said the move was more like approving a business plan than doling out public money. The rebate program will cost $115,000 and run from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31.
- Approved liquor licenses for Petersen's Restaurant, Ice Cream Parlour and Sweet Shoppe and for its catering operation. Liquor will be served only in the restaurant area. Proprietor Daryl Bartelson said liquor sales were necessary for the restaurant and catering businesses to compete.