By Bob Uphues
St. Mary Parish is a step closer to winning approval for the construction of a new office addition to the southeast side of its church/school campus, but parish officials still have a little hoop-jumping ahead of them before the matter heads to the village's board of trustees for a final vote.
On Dec. 19, the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend granting an amendment to St. Mary's special use permit and to grant a zoning variation with respect to parking.
However, the commission placed a condition on its recommendation to grant the parish a zoning variation for a 1,200-square-foot increase in the amount of impervious surface that would result from the planned construction.
Commissioners agreed that their positive recommendation would hinge on the parish providing options for mitigating at least 50 percent of the additional storm water runoff.
Commissioners Edward Hannon, Joel Marhoul, Jacqueline Miller and Alyson Scanlon joined commission Chairwoman Jill Mateo in recommending approval of the final variation with conditions.
But, Commissioner Theresa Pelletier voted against the recommendation, preferring the parish to use whatever means available – whether through a change in the plan or the use of permeable materials – to not change the amount of impervious surface and, therefore, drop the need for that variation.
"The [zoning] ordinance makes it possible to propose pervious pavers that would mitigate the need for a variance," Pelletier said.
Pelletier made a motion to recommend denial of the parish's request for the impervious surface area variance, but it failed to gain a second.
Her colleagues on the board were in favor of granting more leeway to the parish and its architect to mitigate additional storm water runoff resulting from the increased impervious surface.
The parish's plan calls for the construction of a roughly 2,700-square-foot addition to house parish office staff. Offices right now can be found inside the school and on the main floor of the St. Mary rectory, a split-level home built in 1970 that was never meant to house offices but has been doing so since the late 1990s.
Construction of the addition will increase the amount of land covered by impervious surfaces – buildings, concrete and asphalt – by less than 1 percent, but the amount of impervious surface already exceeds what's allowed under one of two zoning districts the parish's campus occupies.
And if the campus were to be built from scratch right now, it would have to abide by much stricter storm water detention rules put in the place by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
As a result, commissioners agreed they did not want to increase the impact of storm water runoff.
"Right now it's a request for a variation with no suggestions on how to counteract that addition," said Hannon prior to the commission imposing the condition on the impervious surface recommendation.
The parish's engineer and architect will have a little bit of time to come up with some options for mitigating the storm water issue. The earliest the village board may take up the planning and zoning commission's recommendations is at its meeting on Jan. 18.