ZONING, Forest Park ZBA allows coach house at 417 Circle [FP]
Last night the Zoning Board of Appeals overruled village staff's decision to order demolition of the coach house at behind the burned out two-flat at 417 Circle owned by Amy Perry of Oak Park. The commissioners present voted 5-0 to overrule staff. Since two commissioners were absent four (of seven) votes was required to pass Richard Scaffidi's motion.
Mike Boyle represented the village administrator's position that since the coach house had been vacated for six months the owner of the property was required to make it conform with the zoning code. The zoning code has the lot as being for one single-family home.
Boyle based his argument on the claim that the coach house had not consumed water for a six month period. The tenant claimed that he was living both in the two-flat and in the coach house. He said that he turned off the water to do some repairs. Boyle said this indirectly proved that the coach house was unsanitary and uninhabitable.
Perry's lawyer argued that the village served the notice requiring demolition of the coach house before it even knew about the lack of water consumption.
Various residents testified against the demolition, including John Plepel, Steve Backman, Mary Kay Minaghan, Rich Vitton and me. While the village's position had some basis in law it was still legally pretty weak. There was no dispute that the gas and electric was connected during the six months in question. And Boyle couldn't guarantee the water meter was functioning.
Most people seemed to have a gut reaction against the village position. It just seemed wrong to order a home owner to demolish a perfectly good structure on some “after the fact” technicality—a technicality that was a “grey zone” issue anyway. After the meeting ZBA chair Mike Curry said that his vote was driven by a gut reaction that the village's position was just wrong, although about 15-20 minutes before the vote Curry said he would abstain. (This was before it was pointed out that the absense of the two ZBA members necessitated four votes to overrule village staff on the issue.)
One observer noted that Boyle struck a confrontational and mean tone with the property owner. He was dismayed that Boyle wasn't at least trying to convey sympathy with the hardship the village would be imposing. I thought it was reasonable to interpret Boyle's style to the fact that it seemed like every citizen was against him. Although the ZBA, especially Curry, was doing everything possible to help Boyle make the village's case.
After the meeting the consensus in the audience (among the people I talked to) was that someone at the village, probably Mayor Anthony Calderone, was pushing to have the coach house demolished and a ruling that the brick two-flat couldn't be rebuilt as a two-flat.
The village wanted this because this would allow a parking lot to be built. The bank owns the property to the north and wants to sell it. And creating parking would be good for the bank. The owner to the south has his property on the market. But the village doesn't have the money to acquire all three properties (perhaps because it acquired 1000 Beloit?).
The conspiracy explanation of the village's actions is that it is deliberately using its regulatory powers in a way that will reduce the value of the property. This is being done to allow the village to acquire the property for less than it would pay for a lot with a two-flat and a coach house.
For more discussion see Forest Park Forums.