A preliminary draft of a grant-funded major rewrite of the Riverside Zoning Code that largely has flown under the radar since it began in the summer 2020 suggests the village seeks higher density development in its downtown and Harlem Avenue commercial districts and also wants to make those areas more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

While the draft language likely will be tweaked as it winds its way through the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission and is reviewed by the village board early next year, some of the changes to the commercial zoning code, in particular, have a particular transit-oriented flavor.

Todd Vanadilok, principal planner for Egret and Ox Planning, the consultant hired by the village to lead the rewrite, presented the latest draft of the code to elected officials at the Dec. 2 village board meeting.

Vanadilok has been working with a steering committee consisting of Village Trustee Doug Pollock, Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission members Jill Mateo (the commission’s chair) and Jennifer Henaghan and resident Jeff Cermak, who is a commercial real estate investment consultant. Assistant Village Manager Ashley Monroe is village hall’s liaison to the committee.

“This is an ongoing process,” said Pollock at the Dec. 2 village board meeting. “The committee has thrown out these ideas for consideration, some of which I have some concerns about. But I think they’re worth discussing and worth hearing from our Planning and Zoning Commission and eventually the village board. None of these are determined, necessarily.”

The code amendments will be finalized during the first three months of 2022, with final adoption slated for May.

The steering committee has met five times since August 2020, most recently in October and the draft changes to the code also incorporate feedback the committee received from an online survey conducted in October 2020. That has been the only active public outreach during the process, which was delayed for about six months earlier this year due to staffing turnover in the village’s Community Development Department. 

Vanadilok told officials on Dec. 2 that the draft amendments were in response to two primary objectives – promoting walkability and transit-oriented development in the downtown business district and to prepare Riverside’s portion of the Harlem Avenue corridor for the arrival of Pace Pulse, a suburban rapid-transit bus network, which is in development at this time.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) provided the village with one of its Community Planning Grants to fund the zoning update, hence its transit-oriented emphasis.

New Harlem Ave. TOD district

Perhaps the most significant suggested change to the code is the creation of a B1-TOD zoning subdistrict, which stretches along Harlem Avenue from Addison Road to Lawton Road. That stretch right now is zoned B1-Commercial which limits building heights to 35 feet and three stories by right, up to five stories as a special use.

In the proposed B1-TOD district buildings can be a maximum of 60 feet and no more than five stories by right. In the B1-C subdistrict, which would include the commercial properties at the corner of Harlem and Ogden and between 26th Street and Longcommon Road, building heights of 48 feet/four stories would be allowed by right. Buildings of 60 feet/five stories would be allowed as a special use.

Buildings up to 48 feet would also be allowed by right in the B1-TC district, which extends west along East Burlington Street from Harlem Avenue to Delaplaine Road.

In the B2 District, which includes downtown Riverside, the proposed code calls for buildings of 48 feet/four stories by right and up to 60 feet/five stories for planned unit developments.

In both the B1 and B2 districts, the proposed code creates new minimum building heights of two stories.

Proposed changes for bike, vehicle parking 

Other changes have been proposed for bicycle and vehicle requirements for new developments in commercial zoning districts.

In order to make the business districts more bicycle friendly and encourage the use of public transportation, the draft code proposes new non-residential developments provide one bicycle parking space for every 10 vehicle spaces.

The draft also proposes that for new multifamily residential developments a minimum of one bicycle parking space is provided for every 1.5 dwelling units for residents and one bicycle parking space per 10 vehicle parking spaces for visitors.

The code also specifies how large the bicycle spaces must be and where they should be located.

According to the draft code, the village would reduce the number of vehicle parking spaces for new multifamily residential developments in transit-oriented districts both downtown and along Harlem Avenue.

In the B1-TOD subdistrict and in the B1-TC subdistrict, the proposed code calls for one parking space per dwelling unit except for assisted living facilities, where the development would have to include 0.5 spaces per unit. Right now, the B1-TC code requires two parking spaces for each multifamily, townhome and mixed-use dwelling unit.

For non-residential developments of 3,000 square feet or less, no parking spaces would be required. For developments above 3,000 square feet, a developer would have to provide one space per 400 square feet above that threshold.

In the downtown B-2 commercial district, new developments would have to provide one parking space for every two-bedroom (or fewer) unit in a new development. The code presently calls for 1.5 parking spaces per two-bedroom unit.

The entire draft amendment to the zoning code can be found online at riversidezoning.com/project-documents.