Riverside is a step closer to welcoming what may be the nation’s only non-home based ferret rescue organization to a storefront on Harlem Avenue. 

On May 24, members of the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5 to 0 to recommend amending the village’s zoning code, allowing animal rescues as a special use in the Harlem Avenue commercial district. 

Commissioners also voted 5 to 0 to recommend granting a special use permit to the Greater Chicagoland Ferret Association to occupy the storefront at 3242 Harlem Ave.

The Riverside Village Board, which has final say over amending village codes and granting special use permits, is expected to consider the recommendations at its June 15 meeting, following consideration by the Riverside Preservation Commission.

The Greater Chicagoland Ferret Association presently rents space on Ogden Avenue in Lyons and houses about 100 ferrets that have been abandoned, abused or are no longer wanted by their owners.

Volunteers who travel to the shelter from as far away at Wisconsin and Indiana care for the animals every week and handle adoptions, which the shelter arranges on an appointment-only basis three days per week.

Ethel Rodriguez, treasurer of the Greater Chicagoland Ferret Association, told planning and zoning commissioners that the shelter is the only one based outside of a private home in the state of Illinois. Shelter Director Steve Malec, who also appeared at the commission’s May 24 meeting, indicated that it may well be the only non-home based ferret rescue shelter in the nation.

Rodriguez told commissioners that the shelter would not impact neighboring businesses. Visits to the shelter are by appointment only, deliveries come via UPS, FedEx or via volunteers and the shelter doesn’t produce large amounts of waste.

“We’re a low-key storefront because we don’t want anyone dropping anything off when we’re not open,” Rodriguez said.

While the shelter might not provide any particular benefit to Riverside, Rodriguez said the shelter wouldn’t be a detriment and could provide an outlet for people needing volunteer hours.

The space at 3242 Harlem Ave. has been vacant for about four months after the eviction of a furniture restoration business, which had occupied the spot for several years.