Zoning cases heard by panel


Members of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Board expressed concern about the density of a proposed six-unit residential building at 6430 N. Northwest Hwy but appeared to support a planned parking lot at Higgins and Neva avenues at the board’s Oct. 1 meeting.

Plans call for a four-story brick building to be constructed on a 6,296-square-foot lot at the southwest corner of Devon Avenue and Northwest Highway, where a home would be demolished. The building would have six parking spaces, including three spaces in the basement.

Three of the six units would be two stories in height, with the largest unit having four bedrooms and measuring 3,000 square feet. The asking price would be about $379,000 for the duplex units and about $300,000 for the simplex units, according to project officials.

“It seems like you are trying to put too much on the footprint of the lot,” advisory board member Frank Icuss said at the meeting.

The 45-foot height of the building would be similar to a nearby retail-residential building at 6400 N. Northwest Hwy. The proposal calls for the property to be rezoned from B3-1, which allows two residential units, to the less restrictive B2-2, which allows an all-residential building with up to six units.

Board member Marc Pelini said that the four-story building on Northwest Highway is not an appropriate comparison and that the property appears better suited for B2-1.5 zoning, which would limit the height to 38 feet and the number of units to four. The site is next to a one-story office building and across the street from a three-story office building that recently was rezoned to allow residential uses on the upper floors.

Concern also was expressed at the meeting that the duplex units would attract families with more than one car. Project officials said that they would determine if the could increase the number of parking spaces from six to nine by creating three tandem spaces.

Also at the meeting, several board members praised a plan to help attract tenants to four long vacant storefronts at 7138-48 W. Higgins Ave. by doubling the size of a rear parking lot. The project would require the demolition of the only three houses on the west side of the 5500 block of North Neva Avenue.

The owner of the storefronts owns two of the houses and is in negotiations to purchase the third home. Several board members said that a vote on the proposal may be delayed until the developer enters a formal agreement to buy the third house.

The existing 22-space lot, which has the same owner as the storefronts, is reserved for Mather’s More Than A Cafe, 7134 W. Higgins Ave. Under the plan, the number of spaces would increase to 46 and the lot would be shared by patrons of Mather’s and the other storefronts, which reportedly have been vacant as long as 15 years.

“I think this is a plan that makes a lot of sense in terms of giving these businesses a fighting chance,” board member Mike Emerson said. Some board members noted that several side streets in the area have residential permit parking due to the proximity of the Harlem Avenue CTA terminal.

Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) said that she recently recommended that the city take the owner of the storefronts to housing court due building code violations but that she was unaware at the time that the property was being sold. O’Connor said that the new owner has made improvements and that a shortage of parking in area has been a problem.

The owner of the storefronts told the board that access to the parking lot would be from an alley and from Gregory Street, which runs parallel to the Kennedy Expressway, in an effort to reduce the amount of traffic on Neva, where several homes are located on the east side of the street. He also said that landscaping on the east side of the lot would be used to shield the headlights of cars which face the homes.

The next meeting of the advisory board is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at the Olympia Park fieldhouse, 6566 N. Avondale Ave. The board makes recommendations to O’Connor on zoning issues.