This is a google aerial view of 63rd and Leonard. On the south side is a Woodridge shopping center; a Target Greatland on the east, fronted by a small “mini strip”; with Dominick’s in the middle, fronted by a recently leveled and empty lot and a restaurant, and capped on the west end next to I-355 by a popular Thornton’s/McDonald’s. On the north side a quiet tree filled neighborhood that has existed unchanged for 40+ years.
There’s a light at Leonard so cars can get in and out of the shopping center, and in and out of the neighborhood. Bradford Realty LLC sees that traffic light as a green light to move businesses north into the residential neighbrhood.
I was at the September 10, 2007 meeting of the Plan Commission, still engaged in trying to steer our government hired help back onto a sane path of not trashing resident’s state-given rights. At that specific point, despite support from effected residents and unexpected support from former council commissioner Tom Sisul, we were getting our collective residents butts kicked by Ms. Beth Clark of the Village Attorney’s Office. She breezed into that meeting and quickly convinced the PC that a horribly disastrous definition for Recycling Centers was what DG really needed, mainly by ignoring everything said against and everything wrong with the definition-which was, well, everything. I have to say, I was duly impressed.
This came first on the agenda:
FILE NO. PC-26-07 A petition seeking: 1) Rezoning from R-1, Single Family Residential to B-2, General Retail Business; 2) Special Use Drive-Through Uses; 3) Special Use Outdoor Café; 4) Variations; 5) Final Planned Development Approval; 6) Final Plat of Subdivision Approval; 7) Text amendment of Section 28.405 Minimum Areas for Zoning Districts for properties located at the Northeast Corner of 63rd Street & Janes Avenue, commonly known as 2440 63rd Street and 6295 Janes Avenue, Downers Grove, IL
Here’s a much larger aerial view based on the village aerial mapping. Note there are two homes that front 63rd Street between Leonard and Janes, and they have an unused alley behind them.
It was a petition request of staggering multiplicity that would have taken the two homes on 63rd, and transformed them into a drive-through Starbucks, and a drive-through Chase Bank. It even included changing the Muni Code so they wouldn’t be so far out of conformance with accepted and currently applied requirements. And it would have taken the alley at no charge from the village to boot, something council has repeatedly not allowed residents to get, even when the unused undeveloped alley has been mowed and maintained by them for decades, just like here.
Here’s the asked for laundry list:
The proposal calls for widening Leonard Avenue at its intersection with 63rd Street. Additionally, stormwater detention would be constructed under the parking areas. The petitioner is requesting the following actions:
1. A rezoning of subject properties from R-1 Single Family Residential to B-2 General Retail Business;
2. A Planned Development with variations from the following requirements:
a. Front yard setback to reduce the parking setback from twenty-five (25) feet to two (2) feet, six (6) inches along 63rd Street;
b. Front yard setback to reduce the parking setback from twenty-five (25) feet to two (2) feet along Leonard Avenue;
c. Front yard setback to reduce the building setback from twenty-five (25) feet to fifteen (15) feet along Janes Avenue;
d. Transition yard to reduce the building setback from twenty (20) feet to 5.4 feet for Lot 1 and 9.5 feet for Lot 2 along the north property line.
e. Sign setback to place a sign closer than ten (10) feet from a front property line on Lot 2;
f. Permit a shared parking agreement between Lots 1 and 2;
3. A Special Use to allow drive-through uses on Lots 1 and 2 for a new bank and coffee shop;
4. A Special Use to allow an outdoor café on Lot 1;
5. A Plat of Subdivision to create two (2) new lots with an exceptions from the following requirement:
a. Reduce the lot depth on Lot 1 from 140 feet to 133.5 feet;
b. Reduce the lot depth on Lot 2 from 140 feet to 133.8 feet; and
6. A Text Amendment to Section 28.405(a) of the Zoning Ordinance to clarify a neighboring jurisdiction’s zoning classification may be utilized when calculating a zoning district’s size.
That’s about 12 things they can’t seem to follow existing written rules on. In short, it isn’t big enough, but they want the village to let them build it there anyway by giving them all these variances and exceptions. Additionally, they don’t want to build a sidewalk on the west side of Leonard. The blocks on either side already have them, but Bradford would get a pass, and taxpayers would pick up the future tab for that.
The applicant is Bradford 63rd LLC, c/o Nathan Bryant, 10 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 2935 Chicago, IL 60606, and the land owners are State Bank of Countrywide Trust #02-2469, c/o Tom Morrison & Mark T. Newey 7667 W. 95th Street, Suite 211, Hickory Hills, IL 60457. They were a ton of people there in support of this project:
- Nathan Bryant, Petitioner, Bradford Real Estate;
- John Schoditsch, Petitioner, Bradford Real Estate,
- Mike Ford, Petitioner, Mill Creek Development, 8104 W. 119th St., Palos Park;
- Laura Shafer, Petitioner, V3 Companies Ltd., 7325 Janes, Woodridge;
- Matthew Champine, Petitioner, V3 Companies Ltd, 7325 Janes, Woodridge;
- Matt Wisz, Petitioner, Interplan Midwest, 1S280 Summit Ave., Oak Brook Terrace;
- Katrina McGuire, Petitioner, Schain, Burney, Ross & Citron, 222 N. LaSalle St., #1910, Chicago;
- Mtlope Witfield, Petitioner, Schain, Burney, Ross & Citron, 222 N. LaSalle St., #1910, Chicago;
- Eric Styer, Soos & Associates, Inc. 105 Schelter Rd., Lincolnshire;
- Michael Achim, Petitioner, Starbucks Coffee Co., 550 W. Washington St., Chicago;
- Scott L. Sanders, Sanders Design Group, 333 E. State St., Rockford;
- Lua Abodna, KLOA, Inc., 9575 W. Higgins Rd., Rosemont;
Like I said, a stacked deck ready to deal. On the other side, every resident who lived in the effected area: I counted 32 but I may be off.
Here’s what they want to put in. Double click on image for a larger view.
I have to hand it to them, there’s so much just flat out wrong with this project I hardly know where to begin, so let’s take it by the numbers. Let’s start with 28.1702
Section 28.1702 Standards for Approval of Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance
Village Council and Plan Commission consideration and approval of any amendment, whether text or
map, is a matter of legislative discretion that is not controlled by any one standard. However, in making
its decisions and recommendations regarding map amendments, the Village Council and Plan
Commission shall consider the following factors:
(1) The existing uses and zoning of nearby property;
All of the existing surrounding property in DG is zoned residential. It always has been, and it has always had a future use as residential. It was identified in the 1960’s Comprehensive Use Plan, in the 2008 Future Use Map, and in the 2008 Zoning Map as residential. B-2 is spot zoning plain and simple. What Woodridge chooses to do across 63rd Street has no bearing or influence on Downers Grove. Indeed, 63rd Street itself is a buffer between the commercial areas of Woodridge and the DG residential areas.
(2) The extent to which the particular zoning restrictions affect property values;
Ask any Realtor that won’t make money on this: houses next to nuisance strip malls lose value.
(3) The extent to which any determination in property value is offset by an increase in the public health, safety and welfare;
There is no benefit to the public health safety and welfare, instead a detrimental addition to stormwater run-off by being 1) completely paved and impervious and 2) fobbing off the obsolete engineering idea of underground pipes storing the run off. This project effectively builds new stormwater problem areas not just for itself, but also for the surrounding neighborhood.
(4) The suitability of the subject property for the zoned purposes;
It’s completely unsuitable, not in the least evidenced by all of the above and by the request for a change in the Muni Code specifically to lower several minimum requirements in their favor.
(5) The length of time that the subject property has been vacant as zoned, considering the context of land development in the vicinity;
It has never been vacant, it has always been residential, there have always been homes in the area, and there always will be.
(6) The value to the community of the proposed use, and;
As every resident that already lives there has said, there is no value to them, and they live right there. Chase Bank has at least two offices within two miles, at 75th and Main, and across the street at 2363 E. 63rd St, Woodridge.
(7) The standard of care with which the community has undertaken to plan its land use development.
The Comprehensive Plan voted and approved in the 60’s and still valid today, the Future Use and Zoning Maps all agree; this is a residential neighborhood and should remain one. Everybody got that for the last 40 years, and the only thing that’s changes is some out of towners want to put a couple drive thru’s into the neighborhood, and want some free land from the village, and don’t want to follow any rules, regulations, or ordinances in the process.
Harold Washington said it best: “That’s hubris; that’s arrogance gone wild.”
From here forward there’s a bit of “see above” that should be obvious-at least to people who live here.
28.1607 Standards for Approval of Planned Developments
The Plan Commission may recommend a planned development designation, plan or amendment based upon the following findings:
(1) The extent to which the planned development meets the standards of this Article.
It doesn’t. Not at all. Not in any single or combined circumstance does this development meet the standards of 28.1607.
(2) The extent to which the planned development departs from the zoning and subdivision regulations otherwise applicable to the subject property, including but not limited to, the density, dimension, area, bulk, and use, and the reasons why such departures are deemed to be in the public interest.
It radically departs from all of the above, and has no rationale for why it could be in the public interest. Again, every member of the public that lives around it is against it.
(3) The method by which the proposed plan makes adequate provision for public services provides adequate control over vehicular traffic, provides for and protects designated common open space, and furthers the amenities of light and air, recreation and visual enjoyment.
Light and air? What about water run-off and car exhaust? And bank tellers on intercoms talking to drive ups, and scratchy blaring confirmation of double shot decaf soy latte orders. No visual enjoyment for anyone living around there, that’s a certainty.
(4) Conformity with the planning objectives of the Village. The Village Council may authorize a planned development designation, plan or amendment with findings such as, but not limited to, the following:
(1) That the planned development at the particular location requested is necessary or desirable to provide a service or a facility which is in the interest of public convenience and will contribute to the general welfare of the neighborhood or community. FAIL.
(2) That the planned development will not, under the circumstances of the particular case, be detrimental to the health, safety, morals, or general welfare of persons residing or working in the vicinity or injurious to property values or improvements in the vicinity. FAIL.
(3) That the planned development is specifically listed as a special use in the district in which it is to be located. FAIL.
(4) That the location and size of the planned development, the nature and intensity of the operation involved in or conducted in connection with said planned development, the size of the subject property in relation to the intensity of uses proposed, and the location of the site with respect to streets giving access to it, shall be such that it will be in harmony with the appropriate, orderly development of the district in which it is located. FAIL.
(5) That the planned development will not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity of the subject property for the purposes already permitted in such zoning district, nor substantially diminish and impair other property valuations within the neighborhood. FAIL.
(6) That the nature, location, and size of the structures involved with the establishment of the planned development will not impede, substantially hinder, or discourage the development and use of adjacent land and structures in accord with the zoning district in which it is located. FAIL.
(7) That adequate utilities, access roads, drainage, and other necessary facilities have been or will be provided for the planned development. INCOMPLETE.
(8 ) That parking areas shall be of adequate size for that particular planned development, which areas shall be properly located and suitably screened from adjoining residential uses. FAIL.
(9) That the planned development shall in all other respects conform to the applicable regulations of the zoning district in which it is located. ALL FAIL.
Section 28.1902 Standards for Approval of Special Uses
The Village Council may authorize a special use by ordinance provided that the proposed Special Use is consistent and in substantial compliance with all Village Council policies and land use plans, including but not limited to the Comprehensive Plan, the Future Land Use Plan and Master Plans and the evidence presented is such as to establish the following:
(a) That the proposed use at that particular location requested is necessary or desirable to provide a service or a facility which is in the interest of public convenience and will contribute to the general welfare of the neighborhood or community. FAIL.
(b) That such use will not, under the circumstances of the particular case, be detrimental to the health, safety, morals, or general welfare of persons residing or working in the vicinity or injurious to property values or improvements in the vicinity. FAIL.
(c) That the proposed use will comply with the regulations specified in this Zoning Ordinance for the district in which the proposed use is to be located or will comply with any variation(s) authorized pursuant to Section 28-1802. DOUBLE FAIL.
(d) That it is one of the special uses specifically listed for the district in which it is to be located. FAIL.
28.405. Minimum areas for zoning districts.
B-2 General Retail Business District – 4 acres. FAIL.
Did the petitioner even read our rules and regulations? What the heck is going on here? This doesn’t meet anything for anything, an almost perfect convergence of nothing acceptable for any reason. FAIL.
One thing this will do is set precedents. If the variances are granted, it will be cited by any and every future petitioner for their developments. It also reinforces a previous precedent of letting petitioners write Muni Code. Don’t like or can’t live with the rules? If you have the cash, time, and effort, you can simply write your own and petition that to be made law. If you have a good enough lawyer, you’ll probably get what you want.
The Plan Commission gave this a unanimous negative recommendation. They smelled stink strong and steady off this pile of offal: FAIL.
Staff offered up this gem for why they recommended approval:
Due to the commercial uses to the south and east, staff recommended approval.
That’s it? To the south, because Woodridge built a shopping center on their side of 63rd Street, a man made boundary between us and them, we should abandon our residents who live in a reasonably quiet neighborhood, and who have done so, many for decades? Woodridge decides for us what our zoning uses are? Watch out DG residents who live across the street from the Home Depot on Woodward, DG is sending a message loud and clear: you may be next due to precedent being granted by your government.
Uses to the east? Because there is a Walgreen’s that was crow-barred onto R-1 residential property at Belmont and 63rd? Belmont traffic zig zags over to Woodward there; there’s even two left turn lanes to facilitate it. In essence, Belmont/63rd and 63rd/Woodward are one long screwed up single intersection. Residents fought the Belmont/Woodward Walgreens back in the day and lost. That’s at a naturally existing very busy corner, not in the middle of a residential neighborhood where an entrance to Target was granted a traffic light from the county for Woodridge.
If this property is zoned for business, the village has a multi-year record of having no further say over what can go in there as long as it meets the requirements of the zoning. Although I can’t imagine worse than two noisy drive throughs, I suppose maybe some of the spank parlors on Ogden might be looking to expand their services to the south siders? How about a used car lot? An off track betting parlor? Currency exchange? Cell phone Tower? All specifically allowed, some as special uses, somewhere in B-2 zoned areas elsewhere in our village. Check 28.605 amd 28.606 of our Muni Code if you doubt it.
Once it gets zoned up, it will never get zoned back down, it will just attract more developers that want more B-2 so they too can get in on the action. Who does the long term zoning planning around here? The village did back in the 60’s, and it is still valid and in effect today.
Do DG residents and taxpayers really want our government to open that door? Where did the common sense patrol go?
So almost nine months later, on June 24, 2008, it comes up before the village council. These things are supposed to be done within 90 days, but staff granted an extension. A public meeting on why may have been in order, so effected residents could have their say, and not have this dragged out forever. Anyway, those same residents whose nightmare began over a year ago all came to this council meeting on and expressed their feelings. concerns, and made their requests, their pleas to council to help them, to save their neighborhood. The Plan Commission had unanimously sent a negative recommendation to council: vote it down they said. Staff put their positive recommendation in the green sheets: approve it they said.
But the Motion itself was something totally different. Not about the petitioner and the project, this motion was a request to remand back to the Plan Commission for reconsideration. Bradford didn;t even ask for or show up for a meeting, they actually phoned it in (see page 4 of the green sheets).
They have new information, the developer claimed. The new information will change how everyone feels about the project. Although the phone call came in April, at the end of June no residents had been made privy to actions that would effect them. The language of the follow up memo shows a bit more hubris: the attorney notes that the Plan Commission “failed to recommend approval of the Project”. They didn’t fail anything; they voted unanimously to approve forwarding a negative recommendation to council.
Despite the non-disclosure for over two months, they said residents and the Plan Commision, everyone, will want the project once they reveal the new changes:
The petitioner has requested the Village Council remand the petition to the Plan Commission to consider new information about the following issues:
- Land Use – The petitioner would like to provide an analysis of the Future Land Use Map and its relation to the surrounding area.
- Property Values – The petitioner is proposing to complete an analysis of surrounding property values before and after the proposed development.
- Traffic – The petitioner would like to present additional information about the traffic and accidents at the intersections of Leonard Avenue and 63rd Street and Janes Avenue and 63rd Street.
- Tenants – The petitioner has indicated that one of the original tenants, Starbucks, has decided not to move forward with the site. They are in preliminary discussions with another similar use for the site.
What analysis could they provide based the existing land use map, zoning map, and Comprehensive Use Plan? That they are wrong? They should be changed so Bradford can build there? I bet they can find someone somewhere that will tell us the residents will benefit from the up-zoning of the property. Any takers?
Me: “The surrounding residential property after the up-zoning and development will have higher value for further business use along 63rd.” Who do I send the bill to? Oh yeah, the property behind the business developments will be worth less if you ever try and sell, but your taxes won’t go down, and no petitioner will ever cop to it happening that way because it’s not in their best interests. They don’t give a hoot about your property values, they care about their development. Never forget that because they won’t.
There are accidents at the intersections because 63rd is a busy road. Leonard is an entrance to the Target shopping center, and both Leonard and Janes are neighborhood residential streets. Getting a mercenary engineer to say yeah that development that’s not gonna make things worse, it’ll be fine; seen it before, will see it again. When does our hired and elected government realize it always plays out that way and we need our own studies, not the developers?
Starbuck’s already moved on, acting as a pertinent example of what I talked about earlier. you never know what will go there once the zoning is approved. Even the petitioner doesn’t know at this point, just approve the project!! I hear King’s Spa is looking to expand.
They did not present any information to council to prove it, or to let council decide whether it was sufficient to warrant remanding, they simply said they had it and they wanted to go back to the Plan Commission to show it there first.
Resident John Schofield, speaking as a resident (and who is also a member of the Downers Grove Coalition for Managed Redevelopment-full disclosure: me too) asked that the project be sent back to the PC specifically “without prejudice”, so the PC would not take the impression that they would have to deal with this until they approve it, no matter what. But prejudice has been attached to this by staff, even as council denied it, and claimed there was no need to make such a distinction for “without prejudice”: staff said they favor the project as they asked for it to go back to the Plan Commission; that clearly establishes a favorable prejudice coming from our hired government employees. That council refused to attach any language making specific this was being remanded “without prejudice” shows council unwilling to contradict staff on this matter, at leats for now.
Except for Commissioner Schnell. She was the only one who stepped up and called BS on the whole process. She wanted it brought to a vote, and voted down, and was fed up with the maneuvering; but as presented, council said they could not vote on the proposal, so back it goes. Council agreed, and voted to send it back because the developer made a phone call, 6-1, Schnell voting Nay.
Residents of the area are still in limbo. They don’t know what will happen at the planned August 5, 2008 Plan Commission meeting, they will have no advance ability to prepare and defend themselves against the next set of petitioner claims, and they will still be at the mercy of events not fully played out in public. This is another group of concerned wary, frustrated residents who have been denied protections for themselves and for their neighborhood; a neighborhood that has existed for over 40 years, with many of the same people living there.
This bears watching.