North Riverside village trustees on Sept. 21 voted unanimously to comprehensively change its zoning code with respect to planned developments, repealing the existing five-page ordinance and replacing it with an 11-page set of regulations that specifically lay out the application and approval requirements, sets design standards and assesses fees related to the process.
The change is part of the village’s ongoing effort at comprehensive planning to confront North Riverside’s reality as a retail-dependent community in an increasingly post-retail world.
Robert Kallien, the veteran municipal planner hired part time in January to assess North Riverside’s building department, suggest changes and lead the comprehensive planning process, was the point man on the planned development ordinance rewrite.
The North Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission at a public hearing on Aug. 27 unanimously recommended repealing the existing ordinance and replacing it with the new language.
Kallien called the existing ordinance “loosey goosey,” because it only generally describes the approval process, standards and requirements and doesn’t give the village the leverage it needs to ensure quality developments that meet goals of the village.
“One of the things I stressed to the Planning and Zoning Commission is that the planned development regulations need to lay out a defined process that has to be transparent for residents, the village board and staff,” Kallien said. “That didn’t exist with the old rules.”
In an interview last week, he pointed to North Riverside Park Mall at 7501 Cermak Road and the North Riverside Plaza on the southwest corner of Harlem and Cermak as examples where a good planned development ordinance might have resulted in more attractive finished product.
“Both are standard, run-of-the-mill developments, and I don’t see anything special,” Kallien said. “Planned development ordinances in most communities give developers flexibility with respect to uses, but the municipality gets things in return. When you look at the two of those developments, the village doesn’t appear to have gotten anything, so the ordinance never served its purpose.”
One of the biggest changes in the planned development ordinance is that it now specifically contemplates mixed-use developments – ones that could combine, commercial retail, office, entertainment and residential uses within a single development.
Kallien, who spent 40 years as a planner in such places as Naperville and Oak Brook, pointed to the redevelopment of the former McDonald’s campus on Cermak Road in Oak Brook as an example of the kind of mixed-use development that’s possible with a modern planned development ordinance.
“They used planned development regulations to create a project with a wide range of uses, including residential,” Kallien said.
The new ordinance clearly lays out the approval process, beginning with a preliminary review at a public meeting by the village board prior to submitting an application and subsequent review by the Planning and Zoning Commission and then final action by the village board.
The ordinance also now requires that developments meet design standards that address land use goals and consider their impact on the community, including traffic, parking, open space, storm water management and community resources like schools.
New language also now allows the village to bill developers to recoup costs related to the plan review and approval process, including costs for attorneys, engineers, planners and other professional consultants engaged during the process.
In addition to future developments within the village’s commercial district east of Lathrop Avenue and north of the Canadian National Railway line, units of local government also must adhere to the planned development process. As a result, the renovation and expansion of Komarek School next year will trigger the process.
The North Riverside Armory property, should it ever be redeveloped, would also trigger the planned development process.
The goal, said Kallien is for communities to actually get what developers say they are pitching.
“You want to make them show how it’s all going to work,” Kallien said. “Hopefully, it will lead to better looking and better functioning developments.”