Group asks for zoning delay on site often mistaken as forest preserve land in Sauganash





by BRIAN NADIG

The Sauganash Community Association is asking Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) to delay a proposed zoning change on a tract of land near Bryn Mawr and Kostner avenues that has been marked by controversy since the 1990s.

A plan to build 18 townhouses on the site failed to materialize last year, and in 1994 a plan to build 16 homes there fizzled due to community opposition and a lawsuit, and only two homes were eventually built.

The parcel is a narrow strip of land located just to the west of the planned Weber Spur bike trail, and it is commonly mistaken as Cook County Forest Preserve District property due to the neighboring LaBagh Woods. Restoration work from the county has been performed on the privately owned parcel, according to one resident.

A Laurino aide told the association that the southern half of the 45,902-square-foot parcel at 4357 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. was mistakenly zoned POS-1, which is intended for public open lands. The northern half is zoned RS-1, which is intended primarily for single-family homes.

Laurino filed an ordinance in October which would rezone the southern half of the property to RS-1. After the zoning code was rewritten in 2004, the city had several parks and other open lands rezoned to the POS classification.

Association president David Seglin said that some residents have raised concerns that the city and previous owner of the land had reached an agreement years ago that a portion of the site would never be developed as part of a negotiated land swap. He said that residents feel that the POS designation was intended to help ensure that the southern half would remain open space.

The association is asking for the delay so that the matter can be researched further, including possible concerns related to wetlands in the area, and that any pertinent documents then can be given to the city, Seglin said.

While single-family home construction is permitted on the northern half of the parcel, residents are worried that additional homes could someday be built on the southern half if it were to be rezoned to RS-1, Seglin said.

Earlier this year the property’s owner informed the association that an individual had expressed interest in having a 6,248-square-foot house constructed on the northern half of the site, just to the south of two existing single-family homes, which are located immediately to the east of the development site. Under the proposal a private roadway would have to be built connecting the lot to Bryn Mawr, he said.

The alderman’s office has indicated that the proposed house may not be feasible unless the southern half is rezoned to RS-1 due to unspecified floor area ratio requirements, Seglin said. Under RS-1, the total floor area of a house must be no more than half the size of the lot, and there are also yard size and setback requirements.

Laurino spokesman Manuel Galvan said in a statement that the plan for the house that was provided to the association "shows a hypothetical site plan for the dimensions of a house that could be built on the land once the zoning is corrected."

City zoning officials have confirmed that the southern half of the parcel was mistakenly rezoned when the code was updated in 2004 and have said that "this type of error is not unique and that, when discovered, the local alderman typically works with the property owner to correct the mistake," according to Galvan.

"The city doesn’t have any more authority to maintain that incorrect zoning than we would to zone (a resident’s) property for public use," Galvan said.

Sauganash resident Kathy Manrriquez said that there reportedly was an agreement in 2000 between the city and the site’s previous owner which would have allowed for the extension of Kostner Avenue south from Bryn Mawr but not all the way to Foster Avenue due concerns about cut-through traffic. A cul-de-sac would have been installed at the end of the development.

As part of the agreement, the city would use a portion of the eastern end of the site for its Rails-To-Trails Program, while a southern section of land was to be given to the forest preserve district, Manrriquez said.

Residents are hopeful that the southern end of the site will remain open space and have been contacting city and county officials to confirm that there was an agreement, Manrriquez said.

Residents also have contacted a law firm that represented nearby homeowners in a lawsuit claiming that work done on the site by Ground Up Construction in the early 2000s was detrimental to wetlands in the area, Manrriquez said. A settlement agreement called for $94,000 being paid to the Northeastern Illinois Wetlands Conservation Account.