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OLDE PALOS BUILDING STANDARD COMMITTEE

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OLDE PALOS BUILDING STANDARD COMMITTEE Powered By Docstoc
					              OLDE PALOS BUILDING STANDARD COMMITTEE
                           JANUARY 2, 2008

       A meeting of the Olde Palos Building Standard Committee of the City of Palos
Heights was held on January 2, 2008 at City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive, Palos Heights,
Il. The meeting was called to order by Chairman Basso. Also present were Ald.
Kramarski, John Conway, Diane Johnson, Kathy Lovitt and Marsha Fisher. Eileen
Lunter arrived at approximately 7:40 p.m.

       The reason for this meeting is to share what Ald. Basso has heard and to let the
members know where the process stands and for them to refresh their memories as to
what was previously discussed and what this committee decided upon. Some of the
feedback he has received is startling to him.

Approval of Minutes           It was moved and seconded to accept the minutes of the
                              September 27, 2006 meeting and the motion carried.

Special Meeting                A committee-of-the-whole meeting regarding the Overlay
                               District proposal is scheduled for Wednesday, January 23,
2008 at 7 p.m. Ald. Basso would like the committee members to attend that meeting and
assist him with questions. He may ask the Mayor whether that meeting can be changed
from a C-O-W to a special meeting so residents will be allowed to speak. The next
scheduled meeting of this committee is January 16th if we need that meeting because on
the 9th the comprehensive plan advisory board is having an open meeting. Copies of the
district proposal evaluations from the three independent groups were sent to the
members. The recommendations were positive.

   There is an objection from Ald. McGrogan who is no longer on this committee. In the
beginning there was discussion about 25% to 30% green space, but Ald. Basso doesn’t
recall it. Diane, John and Marsha also don’t recall talking about green space when Ald.
McGrogan was a part of this committee. It was a later development. Ald. Basso heard
that from only one person. The city administrator e-mailed him saying the mayor wanted
to know if we calculated how these percentages would affect new construction. He
knows the committee did that in the beginning with the new construction going on at that
time. They looked at some blueprints then, but none since. To his knowledge, there’s
only one house that would not have fit and that’s the ranch house on 68th Court or 69th
Avenue. It took up the whole footprint. There’s another 3,200 sq ft ranch built later near
the library and Ald. Basso doesn’t know how the builder measured the square footage but
he may have maximized that measurement.

       Ald. Kramarski asked whether the house at 123rd and Harold would have been in
compliance. John believes the house falls within the FAR requirements, but probably
exceeds the green/open space.

        Another objection Ald. Basso heard at a plan commission meeting is that because
this ordinance was not in place when owners purchased their property, an undue hardship



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would be created. The reaction to that statement is that there were no ordinances on the
books when people first moved into Palos Heights. Things change. Ald. Kramarski
stated when water and sewer came in there were objections. You can’t please everybody.
If it’s fair and reasonable, most residents won’t object, especially if it won’t cost them
any money. It was suggested the restrictions the ordinance imposes wouldn’t make much
of a difference. Ald. Basso agrees. Other communities with FAR did it after they were
incorporated and people had been living there for some time.

         Mr. Conway stated it stems from renovation or rejuvenation of a community. All
the communities in the south and western suburbs have recently adopted FAR and they
have been around a long time. It’s an interesting analogy that NorthPointe is a visual
thing for the old Palos area. Kathy doesn’t understand why old Palos is targeted as being
the main opposition. Mr. Conway is saying there’s objection to this proposed overlay
district with FAR guidelines which would put “hardships” on certain people within old
Palos so that area is being viewed separately. He doubts people in Westgate or Ishnala
are concerned about NorthPointe. It’s the residents in old Palos that are extremely vocal
about NorthPointe ruining the character of old Palos. It’s a way to justify the Olde Palos
Overlay District because the people most vocal about NorthPointe are along College
Drive and east of Harlem. Kathy stated there are vocal people from other areas also. Mr.
Conway thinks it’s interesting that areas within a community that have something special
about them should have a special ordinance to protect them. Ald. Basso thinks that’s a
good point because he may have said--but didn’t mean to say--that Hinsdale has overlay
districts because he doesn’t know if Hinsdale does, but other communities do have them.
There are many different kinds of overlay district. He found some interesting ones on the
internet. There’s a planned development overlay district, a toll-way overlay district, a
regional employment center overlay district (whatever that is) and a hazardous overlay
district. There are all kinds of overlay issues. It will be impossible to explain this in an
hour to people that have not participated for two years or don’t know what we have been
talking about. He asked for this meeting so he could gather comments from this
committee.

        Ald. Kramarski understands from some residents outside the old Palos area that
this is more of an elitist-type thing. She tried to reassure them that it is not, but old Palos
has a character the residents would like to maintain. At one point she thought it should
be for the entire city because there is a tear-down west of 76th Avenue that caused a lot of
controversy. It’s not considered part of old town. This committee wasn’t appointed for
the entire city. That needs to be stressed. It’s not something the committee took upon
themselves to do but rather the direction the committee was given. Mr. Conway stated
the pressures aren’t there in the other neighborhoods. With analysis of lot sizes in old
Palos, we should have approximate lot sizes in other neighborhoods of town because it
may be in those neighborhoods that current zoning is dictating the size of the house on a
property. Those lots are smaller and the houses are probably getting close to the required
setbacks. Ald. Basso doesn’t know. The setbacks for original Westgate are 10ft or 10%
of the lot width, whichever is less and the side-yard setbacks are probably 8 feet. The
front and rear setbacks are the same all over town. He doesn’t think the original homes
there were built that large either. A typical lot there is 75 to 80 feet wide. Mr. Conway



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stated the lot itself imposes restrictions on what can be built there and it would be a small
home. Ald. Basso stated according to the current ordinance, you could get a house 65ft
wide and 60ft deep on the lot, and perhaps times two, but that would not conform with
the green space or lot coverage requirement. It hasn’t happened in those subdivisions yet.

         Kathy doesn’t understand why this got out of control with so many residents
opposed to this overlay district when this committee was originally formed to save the
trees in old Palos. In order to do that the committee discussed the FAR and the green
space. It’s a simple concept and why do we have to discuss Westgate? The district was
originally formed for specific boundary areas. Ald. Basso thinks the committee was
formulated to discuss tear downs and not trees. Secondly, what’s happening is exactly
what John said would happen. Suddenly it became something that could be more
desirable to some people to be within a district. It’s not the intent, but that’s the
perception and that’s a positive. From the comments, it is happening. Marsha stated with
one or two exceptions, old Palos is the only place there have been tear downs. Diane
isn’t in old Palos and teardowns are all around her, but those lots are the same size as old
Palos.

        Ald. Basso sent the committee the negative letters he received. He also talked
with Ald. Gnap and that e-mail is included. In essence, she says she has had a problem
with the FAR from the beginning. We cannot count on her vote. He knows which of the
aldermen are supportive. If everything remains as is, it will be a split vote with the
mayor carrying the load. He has been assured by the aldermen that there will be four
positive votes. He would have preferred to have a strong majority in favor. Ald.
Kramarski doesn’t anticipate a split vote.

        Marsha wonders if it’s a matter of education. Ald. Basso stated not if their minds
are made up and they don’t participate in the process. John stated one of the things that
came out is the dialogue with Ald. Gnap, and prior to that there was a comment by Ald.
McGrogan about the amount of green space. There were e-mails about how you get 55%
green space on a typical old Palos lot under the current setbacks. Ald. McGrogan thought
55% green space is too much and Ald. Gnap talked about it as well. It appears as though
some people haven’t done their homework. How do you get someone’s attention long
enough to explain? Ald. Kramarski stated the green space is more important to her than
the FAR because after a heavy rainfall some residents in her ward complained about their
flooding problems. They never experienced this before the house next door was built.
Now they feel they are surrounded by a moat. In the area of Rt. 83 & Richard, the new
home is so big there was 6 feet of water in the basement next door. These are the calls
she gets. The green space is important to her. Mr. Conway agreed. It was discussed in
meetings. If you don’t take measures to control the amount of impervious surface, there
will be phone calls even after smaller amounts of rain. It’s particularly bad in springtime
when the soil is saturated. Ald. Gnap said in her e-mail that she isn’t opposed to green
space, but she is opposed to restricting what someone can and cannot build on their
property and that goes back to green space. Ald. Basso thinks it would be irresponsible
to continue with the current ordinances. The model on the table is lenient according to
what someone could do on his property according to the current ordinance. Ald.



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Kramarski stated the model will be needed for presentation at the committee-of-the-
whole meeting. Most people need to be shown a visual. Ald. Basso will put it out.

        Marsha stated here are ever more teardowns around the neighborhood, even
during winter. Ald. Basso stated most blocks are affected one way or another by major
renovations or new homes. Should we be worried about protecting against this? If we
are establishing 5,000 plus sq ft for a home and they are currently only building 3,200 sq
ft, why bother; but, again that 5,000 sq ft builds way into the future and takes into
consideration what people may begin to do. Ald. Kramarski received calls from a woman
who had a tear down but hasn’t yet rebuilt. There were tear downs to her west and north.
She never cared until she saw the home come down to her west. Her property is lower
and what if she’s flooded out? She was told to voice her concerns at meetings. It’s not
only FAR, but there are ordinances that need to be enforced. Ald. Basso agrees.

        The next issue is the square footage of ranch homes which according to a resident
has never been addressed. Is it that a ranch can only be 3,200 sq ft because of the 25%
coverage? Is that large enough or should there be an inducement to build a ranch? Diane
suggested there be an accommodation because that came up as a big concern at every
meeting she attended. If something is in place to go along with our other formulas, it
may not be such a concern. As it stands now, a ranch is messed up with these formulas
and people are concerned. Ald. Basso doesn’t know—maybe allow an additional 1,000
sq ft. John understands trying to address the concern, but once you do that it
compromises what we want to do. If you allow another 1,000 sq ft of footprint, we may
end up with only ranch homes, or more of them, at the sake of trees being lost to
accommodate that large footprint and a decrease in impervious surface. If we want to
keep the city green and not have our watershed characteristics changed drastically, that
open space should be consistent at 55% and the footprint of the home should be limited.

        Ald. Kramarski finds it disturbing that a builder comes with a plan for a home he
decides to build and expects the city to make that house work on the lot where it should
be the other way around. If he can’t build that house on that lot, he needs to adapt or
build elsewhere. A 3,200 sq ft ranch with a basement is more than acceptable. Diane
suggested a clear response be prepared for that situation. Marsha agrees with John, but it
should be clearly stated.

Communications         In addition to Ald. Gnap’s comments, Larry brought up the fact
that this doesn’t address the business district, but it is only for residential. He was
confused about the open space as he was a proponent of decreasing open space below
55%. He also mentioned the ranch home in relation to promoting bulk rather than
eliminating bulk because people will build two-story homes rather than ranches. John
stated an analogy with FAR is a pound of play dough that you can either stretch up or
squish down. The appearance may be totally different but it’s the same bulk.

       Lois Gilbert who is a resident in Ward 3 has an old 2-story frame house on 76th
Avenue. She expressed concern that the 35% FAR was too restrictive, but Ald. Basso
explained the square footage to her and she didn’t seem to be too much opposed to the



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concept. She thought the city was going to restrict what you do on your property. That’s
far from the case considering what the ordinances allow you to do now and what the
builders are doing in relationship to what’s being proposed. Those were the only people
he heard from regarding this topic. He is not aware of any great opposition or support.
Apparently the other aldermen are getting all of these comments that he doesn’t get.

        Ald. Kramarski asked Ald. Basso to find out from the mayor if these committee
members will be allowed to speak at the committee-of-the whole meeting. Everybody
here that spoke had valid points and she would like them in attendance. Ald. Basso
agreed.

Counter Points         Ald. Basso had counterpoints to the communications. His property
originally had horses kept in the yard over the weekend and that’s a change. Reference
was made to property where there were chickens in the yard at 125th & Harlem and goats
that lived down the block in 1975.

         Included in the packet is a chart that John prepared. Ald. Basso compiled every
lot size in old Palos and worked with a satellite map from the County Assessor’s Office,
the Sidwell maps and he drove the blocks become some of the information on the Sidwell
is confusing. John put it in a better format so you can see all the streets. Diane prepared
a graph which is a good visual that illustrates the quantity of lot sizes we are generalizing
about. You can see what the numbers are for the smaller lots. FAR information is
broken down into increments of 250 feet. It shows there aren’t that many lots that are
smaller than what is being discussed. There are more lots that are larger than the lots
calculated because he didn’t realize the west side of Harlem generally had deeper lots.
There are approximately 300 houses on lots that are 14,400 sq ft and almost 400 houses
on lots between 15,500 and 16,000 sq ft. He is also driving the streets to locate new
houses and those which have undergone major renovation. It’s a visual as to whether it
looks big on the lot. It will be added to John’s PBF file.

         Ald. Basso presented an article regarding tear downs because it affects everyone
countrywide. Included are some of the square footage requirements in other towns. He
tried to use their percentages and relate it to what’s being discussed. John and Diane
have a list of 20 or more communities on it. Ald. Basso saved it all and it’s a matter of
going back over it again because of the lapse of time. This committee was cautiously
patient and he is confident this will get a good review. In the meantime, the details the
committee worked on have been out of his mind for some time. The three organizations
that were asked to review it gave positive recommendations.

         Some definitions were developed. There’s one for a minimum zoning lot of 9,000
sq ft, occupying no more than 30% of the lot, but Ald. Basso doesn’t know what town
that’s from. There’s a double-faced chart here that shows the lot coverage and the FAR.
Communities with smaller lots would allow for a larger percentage.

       Citizens are concerned that some of the new homes appear to be too large and out
of character with building size, height and setback. Basically, Ald. Basso needs to be



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refreshed as to what the committee spent 2 years talking about and a year forgetting, and
he asked all the members to attend the C-O-W meeting on January 23rd to show support
and offer information. If this committee thinks we should be spending more time, he will
e-mail the data regarding new construction in old Palos.

        Ald. Kramarski asked whether it had been stated at a meeting that none of the new
homes have gone beyond the FAR but some may have exceeded the green space. John
replied they looked at plans a year ago and at that time all the square footages appeared to
be within the FAR limits. Ald. Kramarski thinks that’s important to stress so everybody
knows we aren’t trying to stifle construction. John stated it’s not restrictive. Buildings
will be smaller in the future because of the cost of maintaining them. You never know
which way it will go or why, but every house he sees being built in old Palos tends to be
large. Ald. Kramarski stated property here as compared to other communities is
relatively inexpensive. John stated you don’t spend $300,000 on the property and put up
a 1,500 sq ft home. It’s not like old Palos is a premier area. It’s just that we have
something we want to protect. There are tear downs going on everywhere. The homes
that were built from the 1800’s to date are worn out. When Palos Heights was first built,
zoning was needed. Now we are rebuilding Palos Heights and we need new zoning. It’s
a different time. Ald. Kramarski stated those are good points and she is counting on John
to speak at that meeting. Marsha has heard it’s not restrictive enough. Diane heard it
doesn’t address aesthetics. Ald. Basso stated that was another point of Larry’s letter. We
talked about an architectural review board and then dismissed it. It’s been a long road
and hopefully the community and the aldermen will view it as a good thing. Diane stated
people have fears and those fears need to be addressed. Ald. Kramarski stated if the
green space is addressed, it will affect many people that experience flooding and it’s a big
issue. John thinks it’s short-sighted not to have ordinance in place to control the amount
of impervious surface. Ald. Basso gets calls from neighbors about what people do legally
and illegally. It all affects somebody.

       It was suggested Ald. Basso make a list of speakers from this committee and
designate how many minutes will be allowed to each one so different issues can be raised
and clarified. John, Diane and Marsha were asked to speak. Ald. Basso will ask the
mayor to clarify whether members of this committee can speak at the January 23rd
meeting.

       The next meeting of this committee has been published for January 16th. If it’s
not needed, it can be cancelled. Ald. Basso thinks this committee should meet again.
Some things still need to be clarified.

       The meeting adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

                                                     Beverly A. Larson




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