We must rezone Lake to protect plump shoppers!


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Jack Crowe

It was starting to look like things were going to calm down in Oak Park for the summer. The village board unanimously hired a new village manager. Trustees had sent several controversial zoning issues back to various committees. It had initiated enough planning studies of local business districts to make Daniel Burnham blanch.

And then this happened. Thursday morning, I entered the house sweaty after an early-morning bike ride. Before leaving for work, I wanted to check and see if the crazies in North Korea had unleashed nuclear Armageddon the night before. So I headed to the basement and clicked on the TV.

There, on the Today Show, I saw a story on Oak Park which the reporter billed as one of America's sexiest towns and the "definition of trendy."

Sexy? Trendy? This reporter had never seen me sitting on my front porch drinking beer in my painting tee shirt and self-made short pants.

The gist of the report was that the village is discriminating against fat people because it nixed a deal for a Lane Bryant store to open in a new condo building on Lake Street. Apparently, the owners of the Eleven 20 Club building have filed a $2 million lawsuit against the village seeking damages for the lost lease.

Lane Bryant sells clothes to big women, and the company representative insinuated darkly that Oak Park's real reason was that the village had a thing against plump people.

Then I saw Village President David Pope claim that this was all a misunderstanding, that there was some kind of contract dispute.

Then I saw Trustee Martha Brock defend the right of fat people to shop on main street.

Then the reporter asked whether a village that prides itself on diversity should shunt Lane Bryant off to what Pope had called an "appropriate location."

This must stop. To protect our national reputation, we need to act quickly to address the needs of the overweight shopper.

I am with Brock. Fat people should be able to shop for "plus" clothes wherever they want. But that does not go far enough. If this town is going to welcome the obese shopper, we should immediately hire a consultant to study the issue.

Better yet, because no retailers are going to rent space at market rates in the long interior court of a redone Colt building, we should rename it the Plus building and give rent abatement to obese-appropriate tenants.

Let the crunchy-granola crowd shop at Whole Foods. Let emaciated tennis players from River Forest shop at the new Trader Joe's in the Whiteco building.

At the Plus building, we will put an Irv's Big and Tall next to the Lane Bryant. We will relocate all the Lake Street ice cream stores, pizza parlors and Omaha Steak business there as well.

By rezoning, we will outlaw forever from the Plus building fat discriminators like Weight Watchers. We will not allow a Curves on the premises. For obese shoppers, village sales tax revenues, and those who cannot figure out why we should dump millions into the Colt, this will be a net plus.

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