Garden Room Parking Lot Proposal Defeated
Following the village Plan Commission's decision in October, the Village Board voted unanimously to deny a rezoning petition which would have allowed the East Capitol Drive business to raze a home for a parking lot.
Citing a consensus to keep the residential neighborhoods intact, the Village Board on Monday unanimously denied the Garden Room's proposal to have a house rezoned — which would have paved the way for it to be demolished in favor of a customer parking lot.
"I think the board recognizes the importance of maintaining a balance between the business districts and the residential areas, and that decisions can't be made for the benefit of one," said Sue Witas, a North Frederick Avenue resident who largely organized a petition drive opposing the rezoning.
About 50 residents turned out Monday and more than a dozen spoke, most against the project, but some in support of a rezoning petition filed by Garden Room owner Deb Kern.
The petition would have made way for Kern to have the home at 3940 N. Frederick Ave. — which she owns and is kitty corner from her business at 2107 E. Capitol Drive — leveled in favor of a nine-stall, environmentally friendly parking lot with permeable pavement and a rain garden.
Kern declined to comment following the board's action.
She filed the petition with the village citing a growing customer base at her business — which sells garden items, antiques and houses a greenhouse and Anaba Tea Room — and as a result, a need for the additional parking.
However, area residents said the conversion would result in waning property values on the block, one less home for a new Shorewood family and more crime, and would cause a disturbance on the residential block.
The two sides gathered support for months leading up the meeting — residents via a petition drive and distributing literature, and Kern through her own petition drive and garnering support of other East Capitol Drive business owners. In October the Plan Commission recommended denial, and the Village Board complied on Monday, and was met by applause.
Nick Jones and Michelle Milstein, who with their two children live adjacent to the house Kern sought to have rezoned, said they can finally take a deep breath.
"It's been four really long months of building a lot of community ties, and that has been the positive side of this, to see how people come together," Milstein said.
"We are going to let bygones be bygones," said Jones.
Setting a precedent
In 2006, Katz Properties sought approval to rezone a duplex at 3942 N. Frederick Ave. — right next door to the property Kern wanted to level — to construct a parking lot. The Plan Commission discussed the matter in two meetings and voted against rezoning the property.
But when the matter reached the Village Board, the rezoning was approved.
Monday night, some residents said they feared if the board approved the petition it would set a precedent and make way for the commercial district to flow into residential neighborhoods.
A balancing act
Trustee Jeff Hanewall said it's clear the village as a whole supports local businesses, but echoing a resident's comment at the meeting, homeowners purchased their homes with an understanding that certain properties were zoned a certain way.
"It's a fairness issue; if the rules are set and we are going to change them at the detriment to one side, there has to be a really good reason to," Hanewall said. "There are good reasons to do that, but I don't know that this rises to the level that we should say, let's raze a home for a parking lot.
"Some people might say, well, that is anti-business and I don't think that's true; and we have a track record to prove it," he continued. "We have to balance the residential needs with the business needs."
Trustee Ellen Eckman said the board has discussed parking problems at length and officials have been proactive in addressing those issues, including most recently adding 22 to 24 spaces for East Capitol Drive businesses, near the Garden Room.
Trustee Michael Maher again summarized what he said when the Plan Commission voted against the petition. The village's plan for beefing up the business district maintains the general principle to keep commercial, business properties on the major thoroughfares and not in residential areas, he said.
"As the process has evolved over the years ... we have worked to have structured parking to support our businesses, and we have struggled as a community to find parking solutions, but we've worked to keep family-friendly housing, and it's working," Maher said.