The owners of the vacant Henninger Pharmacy property at 13-15 Longcommon Road in downtown Riverside will appear before the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 30 of the Riverside Township Hall seeking four zoning variations for a proposed commercial/condominium development at the site.
In September architects for the Village Center Development, the company that owns the property, unveiled an ambitious four-story plan that combined first-floor retail, three floors of condominiums and an underground parking facility.
At that time architect Robert Kirk called the new development “the final anchor” for the downtown area, and one whose design would be “in keeping with the surrounding area in scale, size and density.”
However, the plan is at odds with the zoning code for the Central Business District. Village Manager Kathleen Rush in October informed the owners of the property that the design would either have to be changed substantially or would have to apply for several zoning variations in order to move forward.
In January, the property owners decided to embark on the public hearing process, seeking the four variations Rush outlined in October. And, at its February meeting the Zoning Board of Appeals will consider variations for building height, density, parking and setback.
The current zoning code, adopted by the village board in 2003, calls for a maximum building height of three stories.
Based on the square-footage of the lot, the code would only allow for 18 residential units versus the 20 proposed. And, the code would also require any development at the Henninger site to provide 20 retail parking spaces. The current plan calls for just six.
Finally, the code would require a 10-foot building setback along the Burlington Street facade of the building. The building as proposed would have a 5-foot setback from the street.
In a memo to the Plan Commission dated Jan. 18, Rush explained that the “parking requirements for commercial [use] already do have a buyout ability if the applicant so chooses,” although “the dollar amount for the per parking space cost has not been established by code” yet.
Furthermore, although the new code calls for a 10-foot setback for new buildings, the current vacant building has a 5-foot setback. The new development is not proposing any change in the existing situation with regard to setback.
With regard to building height, the Zoning Board of Appeals could grant the variation or the Plan Commission could amend the zoning code to allow buildings four stories in height. The same options exist with regard to density.
Separately, the village board would need to decide to vacate a public alley to the west of the current Henninger building for the development to proceed forward.
In their application for the zoning variances, the owners of the site state that “this property, which was part of the original plan for Riverside, now requires bold thinking. It is obvious that it will not survive in its present state.”
Further, they state that the development “should enhance property values within the neighborhood,” “that the impact on city services will … be minimal” and that the design features “will establish the new building as an attractive complement to the other commercial buildings that form a strong architectural history in the village center.”
Finally, they contend, “We have not exaggerated the need for the changes requested. A considerable amount of time and money has been spent getting this project ready for your review and hopefully your approval. These are the minimum standards that we feel are necessary for a successful project.”
Nick Mlade, part owner and secretary of Village Center Development wrote Rush in January seeking to consolidate the hearing process, since the building might be considered a Planned Unit Development.
“It is our belief that review and recommendation by both the Planning Commission and Zoning Board will be time consuming, costly and could result in conflicting recommendations to the board,” Mlade wrote.
Rush, however, said that Riverside has no Planned Unit Development ordinance and that the project must go through the regular hearing process.
The village board will have the final say on the project and has the ability to overturn any recommendations from either the Plan Commission or Zoning Board.