North Riverside trustees voted unanimously on Jan. 20 to consolidate two advisory commissions – the North Riverside Plan Commission and the North Riverside Zoning Board of Appeals – into one entity as officials start a wholesale revision of the village’s zoning code.

Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said the move came upon advice from Robert Kallien, the consultant the village is using to lead its strategic planning process. While both commissions have met sporadically in recent years – often in joint sessions – Hermanek said he expects there to be an uptick in planning commission meetings related to the zoning update.

In a report he delivered prior to the village board prior to officials launching the planning effort, Kallien recommended that North Riverside update its zoning code, which included obsolete terminology and lacked references to contemporary business uses.

Consolidating the two commissions into one North Riverside Planning and zoning Commission will increase efficiency and make it easier to find qualified volunteers to serve.

The old Zoning Board of Appeals had seven members while the Plan Commission had nine members. The new commission has seven members. Its chairman is Pat Ferriter, the longtime chairman of the Plan Commission. Other former plan commissioners joining him on the new group are Matt Brophy and John Mathias.

Former zoning board members named to the new commission were George Georgopoulos and Dave Witken.

Also named to the Planning and Zoning Commission were John Bork and Marty DeLeonardis, who ran unsuccessfully for village trustee in 2019 on the VIP Party ticket.

The new commission’s first public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. to craft zoning regulations for and accept public comment on adult-use cannabis sales, which became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1.

North Riverside officials last year expressed support for cannabis dispensaries opening within the village, but the zoning code does not address such businesses at this time. The Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to designate area of the village where such businesses would be welcome and may discuss other restrictions, such as subjecting proposed cannabis businesses to a public hearing process and village board vote, creating buffer areas near schools and daycare centers or limiting the total number of dispensaries the village will allow.

Riverside and Brookfield have both already amended their zoning codes to regulate cannabis-related businesses. Riverside allows dispensaries as a permitted use only in the Harlem Avenue commercial districts.

Brookfield will allow cannabis-related businesses, including dispensaries, craft growers, infusers and transportation companies as special uses in certain areas of the village. Dispensaries are also not permitted within 100 feet of a school or daycare center.