Monthly Archives: June 2013

Oak Park’s abortionist

Oak Park’s very own abortionist has pro-lifers’ attention.

She is Dr. Cheryl Chastine, with Oak Park office at 917 S. Oak Park Ave., in the first block south of the Eisenhower.

She does the abortions in Wichita KS, where she’s the answer to a pro-choicer’s prayer.

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Why no comers but Clark Street for Colt development?

The Village went looking for other developers for the long-empty Colt (Building) site in Downtown OP, but got no takers from more than 120 developers and brokers who were asked.

Trustee Ray Johnson said he was disappointed there were no other proposals which to compare the Clark Street proposal. The footprint of the development site, he noted, had changed dramatically since Clark Street first made a proposal in 2007.

Also could be that others saw the trouble Clark Street had getting to this point in dealing with sluggish Oak Park, as cited by now President Anan Abu-Taleb during the recent election campaign, when he said:

We have to change perceptions of Oak Park among developers. They see OP as “undecided,” too fussy and hard to deal with. A developer has to move fast.

To which his opponent, John Hedges:

We develop in Oak Park “for the community, not for the developer.” In Oak Park a project requires “a lot of input” from citizens. “We cannot [simply] give the developer his way.”

This Colt development, which would change the face of Oak Park’s downtown, is the new board’s trial run as Oak Park’s shepherds of development.

Anan recuses

Got to the V-board meeting last night at an advanced hour, having been busy the other end of town with my fellow Republicans, plotting as usual to undermine all that’s good and beautiful.

The trustees were hearing from the auditor, a portly fellow who was amazing to listen to. His rapid-fire delivery seemed to make sense. The trustees seemed to get it all. Two or three responded or asked questions. It was a dizzying display of financial-services erudition, my belief in which does not compare with my belief in God, but . . .

The auditor finished. His village-staff minder finished with his offer to be of whatever further service he might be to the board. Another item was handled, then President Abu-Taleb said it was time to go get a drink. He means time to wrap it up, I thought. A skeleton crew of audience remained, it was 9:10. An early evening, I thought.

Not quite, said another trustee. Hmmm. Maybe it’s Anan’s birthday, and they have a surprise for him, I thought. But the other item was not singing Happy Birthday, just some more business. It was completed, another issue was joined, and President Anan got up and left the table and all alone ascended the stairs towards the exit.

What the heck? He walked past me. I sat on the aisle, last row. He passed to the level of the door, behind me. I heard the rustle of someone leaving. I thought, My heavens, he’s leaving. Moments later, he came down the one step to where I sat, passed by me and sat down next to me.

I leaned over. “Have you bailed out?” I asked. He said something I didn’t catch. I had him repeat it: “It’s a liquor issue.”

At which point I heard or paid attention to the business at hand below us. It was liquor-ordinance stuff. Of course. Our village president who has a restaurant and a liquor license, was sitting it out.

In minutes he was back at the table. Village board business continued. I left. And the world kept marching on.

Zoning, zoning, who will rid us of all this zoning?

V-board could do that tonight, with vote in favor of, are you ready?

Ordinance amending section 2.1.4 of the zoning ordinance related to the jurisdiction of the zoning board of appeals, section 2.1.5 of the zoning ordinance related to the jurisdiction of the village board, section 2.2.4 of the zoning ordinance related to variations, and section 3.1. Summary use matrix, section 3.9.3 related to use restrictions in the transit related retail overlay district and section 9.143 defining religious reading rooms.

Have you got that?

It is to say, should the V-board be final arbiter in matters of zoning variances in particular cases having to do with the kind of business to be allowed on streets of high pedestrian traffic in rush hour? “Transit-related retail” is the term of art.

We are talking neighborhood of CTA and Metra stops, in whose vicinities lies retail gold. The V-board would have final say in these cases — “use variances,” vs. “bulk” or area variances, which are about construction — not the Zoning Board of Appeals, because . . . because . . . because . . . Hmm. Good question. More politically volatile? Dunno, but the V-board clearly wants final say in this matter.

So if they pass the ordinance, which also tweaks allowability factors, they will do away with the matter, having bought a lot of future discussion as they approve or not requests from various merchants seeking variances. Lending variety to their proceedings, you might say.

But also allowing them, the trustees, to shape the small (or other, who knows?) business climate, such as what got a lot of discussion in the recent election campaigning, as I recall.

Meatless Mondays meet match

Proclamation, not legislation, says V-staff in run-up to tonight’s meeting.

Staff does not recommend referral to the Board of Health [as they were asked to consider], and alternatively proposes the Board consider adopting a proclamation in support of meatless Mondays which would not be a formal legislative action, yet supportive of the concept.

Material in support of the concept are helpfully provided by said staff in shape of brochure, which features a banana on a bun (pictured) and includes endorsement by Al Gore, which tells us the idea is not all good.

Speaking of Al Gore, by the way, whatever produces fewer meatheads in our crazy, mixed-up world can’t be all bad either. Go for it, V-board. You have what it takes to knock this one out of the park, and certainly off your crowded agenda.

Bonfire of the superfluities

Tired of weeding? Burn the damn things. Or not. V-board looks over an ordinance “to allow the use of open fire to manage native landscaping.” Tonight, at V-hall. It’s first on the agenda, right after new commission appointments, which come after prime-time premiere (First Reading) of building-code revisions as reviewed by the headless Building Codes Advisory Commission. Don’t miss it.

To have your weeds and the like approved for burning, however, you need permits from the Illinois Employment Prevention Agency, known familiarly as EPA, and the Cook County Department of Environmental Control, known hardly at all. With these in hand — and it should be fun getting them — you get a “free” one from the OP Fire Department. All this to start a fire in your back yard.

What gives with the Bldg Codes Advisory Commission?

Chairman’s expiration is long gone,

Building Codes Advisory Commission

Gilchrist, James, 9/7/2008

but same headless commission has reviewed Proposed Revisions to the Building Codes, and its report is in v-manager’s hands for reporting to the trustees at tonight’s meeting.

What this village needs is a Building Codes Advisory Commission chairman or woman.

Mouth fight at the Village Hall corral: Those overlay blues

Battle lines formed among OP trustees last night, May 3, on the issue of gummint meddling (planning) vs. free market laisez-faire, specifically about rethinking the transit-related retail “overlay” designation of a retail strip with fine-tuning of zoning regulations so as to get things just right as viewed from 123 Madison Street.

It was a 4-3 split, Abu-Taleb, Salzman, Tucker and Barber vs. Johnson, Lueck and Brewer, the group of four being in favor of revisiting village regulation of retail establishments, the latter opposed. The vote was not to change anything but to ask the Plan Commission to consider it.

Abu-Taleb, at 9:35 after a half hour discussion of a related motion full of fencing and niceties, reprised his campaign theme: “The village is not nimble [in business matters]. It’s over-regulated. Let the market decide what’s best. Government has to get out of the way. What happened to supply and demand? I urge us to think about these matters [granting zoning variances] from a business-owner’s point of view.”

Johnson: Let the market decide? No. “In the 70s and 80s in Oak Park [when
village business-related policies did not work well], it was anything goes.” Keeping the lights on retail strips “nine to nine” is one thing, “ten to three” is another. (Nearby residents object.)

Salzman: It’s not let a simple “market-decide” or not, “but the business community knows what’s best.” We trustees, on the other hand, feel that our “planning expertise” knows better.

Brewer: We must consider why the transit overlay in the first place? (Seeking to shape areas near “L” stations and Metra station through aggressive zoning requiements.) “It’s to maximize the transit advantage. In the planning community, this is a major emphasis.”

Lueck: Focus should be “not on business owners,” but “on citizens.” The village has “to make the most of our land,” use it to the best advantage, in this case what’s near transit. Reconsidering the overlay is to overlook what went into approving it in the first place.

“We shouldn’t forget that. To change it leads to uncertainty. Business people don’t want uncertainty, we heard tonight.” [Not quite. We heard that the
current situation is confusing and there’s uncertainty for them in wondering
what’s required. This is what was said they do not like.]

Salzman, intent, moved, looking neither right or left: “We should not hold anyone ill-informed” who wants to reconsider the overlays. [Angry but controlled, apparently at Lueck’s comments, resenting implication that he — as first-term trustee? — is ignorant of years-ago arguments in favor of overlay.

She too had been quite intent in her remarks.

“We need answers quickly” in matters of business investment, he continued (rather than imposing delay for extensive weighing and balancing of regulations and circumstances — the uncertainty mentioned earlier, rather than Lueck’s warning against changing what we have.

Johnson: Endorses Lueck’s “uncertainty” argument, calling it “a very important point.” To “just open up boundaries” (thus characterizing restriction-relaxing) not a good idea.

Brewer: Regarding earlier comment that “we” have to look closely at the overlay, he meant the board, so that trustees might understand reasoning behind overlay, thus echoing Lueck’s defense of transit overlay.

The vote: The village lawyer told them Abu-Taleb could not vote on asking the Plan Commission to reconsider the overlay for Oak Park Avenue, immediately south of South Blvd. because his Maya del Sol restaurant is part of that strip. The ensuing vote — on reconsidering overlay for this strip and “Southtown,” on either side of the Eisenhower — was a 3-3 tie.

Then at the request of one of the Group of Four, Southtown was separated from the other. Lueck raised a new objection, Salzman protested that “goal posts were moved,” that “we trustees” should be able to agree on (merely) putting the issue before the commission. (On the other hand, if you think it’s a bad idea, why put it to a commission?)

The vote on asking Plan Commission to reconsider the Southtown overlay was 4-3 in favor.

Thus was joined the philosophical battle, marketeers vs. planners, with odds now favoring the former. This apparently is what 58% of the voters had in mind when they raised Abu-Taleb to the presidency.

Tonight at Village Hall . . .

. . . Spotlight on V-board in action. At issue: Transit Related Retail Overlay District zoning exemptions — special cases, also known as variances for deviations. Deviant merchants here, what they are permitted as to use of land or use, etc. of buildings or structures.

Are you with this so far?

Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decides these exceptions, requiring neither incitement — variance seekers go direct to them — nor approval by the V-board. These people decide, based on information given (and verified, we presume), and that’s it. But the rules of game, the criteria, are set by the uber-board, the trustees.

In any case, cutting to the chase (if I may speak a little trite here), what the trustees accepted last meeting, May 20, about standards etc. for variances, as above) comes before them tonight for a “first reading.” They talked it over on May 20 and with a few changes said they liked the ZBA rules change as offered. Now they mean to hear it and maybe discuss it some more, maybe tweaking it for I assume the second reading.

There’s a wrinkle, however. Board president Anan Abu-Taleb, recent landslide winner as independent candidate-without-board-experience, has done his thinking before this meeting and has an alternative rules-change proposal:

An alternate Ordinance has . . . been prepared at the request of Village President Abu-Taleb with additional language that provides for an expanded definition [of?] criteria for consideration in determining whether a use should . . . be granted (. . . relative to unusual hardship and reasonable return).

Thus spake (wrote in agenda) Village Planner Craig Faillor. “Expanded” here means less restrictive, apparently in line with Abu-Taleb’s repeated campaign references to making it easier to do business in Oak Park.

Planner Faillor recommends expanding — not of the criteria but of application not just to the transit-related etc. areas but apparently to the whole darn village:

Recommendation: Adopt the Ordinance relative to the Zoning Ordinance text amendments which includes expanding the use variance Standards and Criteria to all areas of the Village. [sic]

Which to be truthful, I don’t get. This transit-related category calls for “densification” (I love it), “encouraging denser development.” That is, packing more uses in; hence, retail on ground floor, apts. or offices on the upper floors, that sort of thing.

But I doubt if the planner wants to densify the whole village. I can see it now: Protestors flocking to meetings with signs, “We don’t want to densify!” Or “Go densify yourselves, you dumb trustees!”

No, this blog may be an inexpert, if well-intentioned, interpreter; but it’s going on record here: The planner does not want to densify the whole damn village! Take it to the bank! (trite)

Finally, to get a flavor of what planners and their departments do, consider this list of establishments which “shall not be located at grade level or on the ground floor of any building or structure unless located at least 50 feet from any street line”:

a.
Family residential-care home;
b.
Foster home;
c.
Group residential-care homes;
d.
Animal clinics without an open kennel;
e.
General office, including real estate offices and medical and dental clinics;
f.
Beauty supply;
g.
Catering service;
h.
Day-care center;
i.
Medical and orthopedic appliance store;
j.
Weight-loss clinic;
k.
Employment agency;
l.
Studio (artist, photography, recording);
m.
Adult day-care facility;
n.
Post high-school education or instructional institution, public or private.
o.
Schools, public or private;
p.
Banquet, exhibition and meeting halls, public.
q.
Single-family residential;
r.
Multiple-family residential;
s.
Accessory buildings and structures;
t.
Community Buildings;
u.
Non-Village of Oak Park government owned or operated services;

And then think whether you want (a) to be a village planner or (b) a trustee who has to think about such details.