Facing a building permit deadline they’re unlikely to meet, the developers of the former Henninger Pharmacy property in Riverside have secured an extension for the one zoning variation granted in May by village trustees.

On Aug. 15, trustees voted 4-1 with one abstention to grant the extension, giving the developers of the Village Center Development until May 2, 2006 to get building permits for the new, as-yet-unapproved project.

On May 2, the village board granted a variation to developers to construct a four-story building at 13-15 Longcommon Road in the downtown district, but shot down requests for four other variations at the same time.

Now in the process of redesigning the plan, which calls for a mixed-use retail/condominium building, developers say they won’t be able to meet the 180-day deadline for pulling building permits and need more time. The variation request expires in mid-November.

“The developer is working closely with the village to make certain the design of this project is going to essentially be close to what was proposed without all the other variations,” said Village President Harold J. Wiaduck Jr. “It seems to me that this is a reasonable request.”

All but Trustee Kevin Smith agreed with Wiaduck in granting the extension. Smith, argued that the developers should not receive the extension because trustees had granted the height variation for a specific design?”one no longer being proposed.

“I think in doing this we’re giving a blank check to developers,” Smith said. “The variance was granted for a specific design. In essence, this is saying that any four-story building is OK. The board shouldn’t abdicate its review authority.”

Village Attorney Dean Krone said that while the board could have imposed such a condition on the height variation, it didn’t do so. Furthermore, he said such a condition would have been counterintuitive.

“It would have been illogical to do so, since several other variations requested were denied and the plan was going to be redesigned,” Krone said. “It seemed clear to me that the majority of the board supported that variation, even though several others were not approved.”

Smith further argued that the variation extension should not be allowed since developers have indicated that their development would also include the parcel of property immediately north of the old drug store. Nick Mlade, one of the partners in the development confirmed that a contract to purchase the one-story office building at 23 Longcommon Road was still pending.

Mlade responded saying that while part of the building would intrude into the new parcel of land, no part of the development located on the 23 Longcommon Road address would be more than three stories tall, negating the need to reapply for a new height variation.

“The main project will be four stories, as permitted,” Mlade said. “On the newly acquired property, the building will be only three stories, and only a small portion of the building will be on that lot.”

Despite Smith’s opinion, most trustees agreed with Wiaduck’s assertion that extending the time period for the height variation was fair.

“As far I’m concerned, we made a commitment to make a four-story building,” said Trustee Thomas Shields, “and we really put developers in a bad situation if they don’t know whether four stories are going to be permitted or not. All we’re doing is granting him enough time to come back to us and finish the project.”

Shields and trustees Cindy Gustafson, William Scanlon and John Scully all voted to grant the time extension. Trustee Candice Grace abstained citing a conflict of interest. Her daughter works for one of the developer’s attorney.

In order to proceed with the building permit application process, Mlade and his partner, Harry Liesenfelt, need to go through a site plan review process that would include formal appearances before the village’s Plan, Preservation and Landscape Advisory commissions.

After getting a final OK from the Plan Commission, and provided no other zoning variations are required, the developers would then need to prepare working drawings prior to obtaining building permits.