Despite seeing the potential eventually for a larger retail commercial development on Harlem Avenue between 26th Street and Longcommon Road, Riverside trustees have pulled the plug on a proposed moratorium that would have limited the types of businesses allowed to open there for 90 days.
The moratorium would have placed a hold on zoning approvals and licenses for non-retail businesses as the village’s Plan Commission crafted a retail overlay district for the small mixed-use commercial/residential corridor.
While there wasn’t a formal vote to do so, four of the board’s six trustees were against moving ahead with a moratorium, which was recommended by the village’s Plan Commission last month. Trustees Jean Sussman and Doug Pollock were the only two in favor of giving the moratorium a chance.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to step back and look at what is its highest and best use,” Sussman said.
Pollock said that the 90-day restriction was short enough and likely would not negatively affect the property owners.
“I think 90 days is a short window and maybe something good could come out of it,” said Pollock. “I also view it as a potential benefit to the property owner, because we’re going to take a step back and we’re going to look at this and try to maximize the potential of the property.”
At the same time, it looks as if the village won’t move forward with a plan to consider a retail overlay district for the small commercial corridor after realizing that any sales tax generated from such a development would be negligible.
“My impression is that it’s a dead issue,” said Village President Ben Sells in a separate interview. “Given the potential economic benefit, I don’t see it happening.”
The Riverside Village Board floated the idea of the moratorium in September at a time when the owners of three contiguous properties on Harlem Avenue — the former Sara Lee outlet store, a dry cleaners and a small strip mall —were actively seeking buyers.
The thought at the time was that if the village rezoned the area for retail use perhaps a single buyer could come in and purchase all three properties to create a significant retail development.
Since that time the former Sara Lee space has been leased to a title loan business. The dry cleaner and strip mall are still for sale and their owners are represented by the same real estate broker.
Trustee Michael Foley said that he believes there may be the possibility for retail development even without rezoning the properties.
“I really feel that this will work itself out when Costco opens,” said Foley, referring to the development under construction on the northwest corner of 26th Street and Harlem Avenue. “When big box stores come in, there’s a slight rush to gain property near those stores.”
Meanwhile, Trustee Ellen Hamilton said she did not want to begin dictating property use to owners and preferred to let the market dictate what happens moving forward.”
“I’m a great believer in letting the market drive what happens in the market and it makes me very uneasy,” Hamilton said. “I’m not in favor of placing those additional restrictions on what a property owner can do.”