Photos of property at the corner of Prairie Path and Wilcox St. that was recently rezoned by village officials. Below right, homes along 6th Ave. that were rezoned. | Photos by Village of Maywood
Tuesday, January 3, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 11:02 p.m.
At a Dec. 20 regular meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees unanimously approved three changes to the village’s zoning code that officials said are designed to give more leeway to current and prospective developers.
The changes, village officials said, are part of a series of recommendations in the village’s Comprehensive Plan, which was updated in 2014. The village’s current zoning ordinance was adopted in 2010.
The first measure involved changing the purpose statement of, and the list of special or permitted uses within, the Business Industrial Park (BIP) zoning district that encompasses properties along St. Charles Rd., between 6th and 15th Avenues.
The change, said Assistant Village Manager David Myers at a Dec. 14 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, will make it easier for developments like financial institutions, greenhouses, outdoor dining facilities and retail goods stores to setup in the area.
“We had a number of requests where restaurants were only allowed in this area [if] they were part of another use,” Myers said, before noting that the village’s Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals recommended the proposed change by a 7-0 vote. “We’re not taking away anything, we’re improving the actual use.”
Myers said that, in the past, staff members’ hands were tied when a prospective developer, which they considered a good fit for the area, was proposing to bring in a business that wasn’t allowed in the area because of the stricter zoning requirements.
“[The change] just opens up more opportunity for various uses to come in,” Myers said. “That’s the reason why we looked at expanding.”
Another change, which the Plan Commission also unanimously approved, entails rezoning multiple properties located on the west side of 6th Ave. — from St. Charles Rd. to Oak St. — from BIP, or Business Industrial Park, to R-5, or multi-family residential.
In 2010, Myers said, the area was zoned commercial, but there has been more demand for residential purchases and the “properties still have residential structures on them,” according to a recent village memo.
One resident who purchased a two-flat, brick residential building was told that he would have to transform the property into commercial space because of the way the area was zoned.
“That doesn’t make sense. It may look good on paper, but it doesn’t make sense. I’m all about expansion and community development, but if you have areas that are residential and are used as residential, we need to continue that,” Myers said, adding that, unless there’s significant demand from actual developers, the zoning in residential and commercial areas should reflect their use.
The last zoning change, which involved some controversy, entailed rezoning a set of properties in a two-block area “bordered by the Illinois Prairie Path to the south, Wilcox St. to the north, 4th Ave. to the West, and 2nd Ave. to the east,” according to a village memo. Six properties in that area would be rezoned from R-5, or multi-family residential, to M-1, or general manufacturing district. Three properties in the area would go from OS, or open space special purpose district, to M-1.
“These areas have always been manufacturing in nature dating to the era when the railroad line passed through this section of the village,” the memo stated. “These blocks were rezoned to residential in 2008 in anticipation the area would receive residential development near the Prairie Path Trail. The plans for residential development never came to be realized.”
Myers said that the proposal was recommended by the Plan Commission by a 6-1 vote. The lone dissenting vote was from a member who lived in the area and argued that manufacturing wasn’t a good fit for it.
Myers said that, after sending out notifications to all of the affected properties in the area that would be affected by the change, village officials “didn’t receive one call or letter inquiring about why we’re changing the zoning.”
The area, he said, may contain residential properties, but it’s surrounded by manufacturing facilities.
Two local business owners, Myers said, spoke before the Plan Commission on behalf of the zoning change. They explained that it had been difficult to attract prospective tenants to those manufacturing properties because of the zoning restrictions.
But the bulk of the discussion about the last zoning change, both at the Plan Commission meeting where the recommendation was voted on and at the Dec. 14 LLOC, involved how unsightly that area near the Prairie Path looks — which could be why some people may be in opposition to the manufacturing designation, officials argued.
They particularly focused their criticisms on a village-owned storage lot on Wilcox Ave. and on the appearance of neighboring businesses in the area. Recently, the village shelled out more than $20,000 to clean up half of the lot. Village officials have also put out bids on the construction of a fence around the lot.
“The whole area is not attractive,” said Trustee Isiah Brandon at the Dec. 14 LLOC. “You have bushes that need to be trimmed, garbage you can see through the fences and some of the businesses in the area aren’t maintaining their properties either. The village needs to hold them accountable to make that entire area attractive. That way, you won’t get so much push-back.”
Brandon said the village should implement a plan for beautifying the entire span of the path that goes through Maywood — from 1st to 21st Avenues — that might include the installation of murals and other public art works.
“I agree, we need to improve, but the village needs to set the tone,” Myers said. “That’s something we’re working on now. Before we get murals, let’s get the fences repaired, let’s get some weeds out.”
“We need to have good compliance both from the police and from code,” said Trustee Michael Rogers. “We got to make sure that everybody is doing their part to keep it from being a mess. Let’s watch it. We need to make sure it never gets close to being that way again.”
Rogers also recommended that the village seek out members of the consulting firm Houseal Lavigne, which was hired to draft the 2014 updated plan with funds from a federal grant. Since that plan was approved, the village hasn’t had any substantive engagement with the firm.
“You don’t want somebody to do a comprehensive plan and then just kind of fall off,” Rogers said. “Their perspectives as professionals is really important and can help the village tie things together, because if you do a zoning change and nobody knows that it changed, they’re not going to [bring their developments] here.” VFP