Riverside trustees voted to approve a major rewrite of its commercial zoning code on Feb. 2, creating a new Transit-Oriented Development zoning district along Harlem Avenue between Addison and Lawton roads, increasing maximum building heights there and in the central business district and a host of other tweaks in an effort to encourage commercial redevelopment.
Elected officials voted to approve a total of four ordinances regarding various aspects of the zoning code rewrite, with perhaps the most impactful change needing President Joseph Ballerine’s vote to break a 3-3 deadlock among trustees.
Trustees Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga, Cristin Evans and Doug Pollock all voted against new language increasing the maximum allowable building height by right in the central business district to four stories or 48 feet (with the roof peak at 50 feet) and to five stories or 66 feet if the building is part of a planned unit development.
The former code allowed buildings of up to three stories or 38 feet (with a roof peak at 45 feet) in the central business district.
“I think it’s really important to maintain the water tower as the focal centerpiece in the central business district,” Marsh-Ozga said. “I think our history is important. I think it compels a different treatment in the center of town.”
Trustees Megan Claucherty, Edward Hannon and Alex Gallegos voted in favor of the change, along with Ballerine.
“Going east down Burlington Street in this [central business district], I just quite frankly don’t see a concern why we wouldn’t allow four stories as a matter of right,” Hannon said. “My understanding is that in developing in residential areas of this type, anything three stories or below is just economically unfeasible to build. We’re looking to be friendlier to redevelopment of our aging buildings on Burlington.”
Hannon also noted that the central business district already had a four-story building, which is 50-feet tall, in the Village Center development, built in 2006-07.
Trustees were more united in allowing developments of up four stories by right and up to five stories as part of planned unit development in the newly established Harlem Avenue TOD zoning district, with a particular eye on encouraging redevelopment of two adjacent properties the village owns on the south side of East Burlington Street immediately west of Harlem Avenue.
Where they differed was a late change in the language of the amended code, which removed a maximum 5-foot setback for new buildings in the Harlem Avenue commercial district, bringing buildings closer to the property line and encouraging the type of TOD development the village seeks to attract.
The new code instead allows buildings to be set back 20 feet from the front property line. Pollock said the change will jeopardize the village’s goal of attracting denser TOD development and result in shorter buildings with large parking lots in front of them, negating the urban streetscape.
“I think the change we are proposing that would eliminate the maximum 5-foot setback is directly contrary to that vision,” Pollock said.
Pollock also pointed to an online survey conducted by the village in which residents indicated support for taller, denser commercial and mixed-use development for Harlem Avenue and pretty strong opposition to buildings like fast-food restaurants.
“In my opinion, what we’re approving here is contrary to that survey that we did,” he said. “To me, what was very clear in that survey is that what residents want is a more transit-oriented development type of development.”
Pollock’s motion to have the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission have another look at that particular language failed in an identical 4-3 vote. In the end, Pollock was the lone vote against that change to the code.
One major change to the residential zoning code now allows new buildings in the village’s R3 and R4 districts — which include the multifamily district west of the downtown bounded by East Avenue, Pine Avenue, the Des Plaines River and Park Place; Ogden Avenue essentially west of Lionel Road; East Burlington Street between Delaplaine and Herbert and just east of the central business district; and Harlem Avenue essentially between Longcommon and Addison and a small section just north of Blackhawk Road – to be four stories or 48 feet tall, with a peak height of 50 feet. The old code allowed buildings of three stories/35 feet.
The new code also reduces minimum parking requirements in commercial zoning district to one space per dwelling unit for buildings within a quarter mile of a bus stop and a half mile from a train stop.
The amended code addresses a host of other standards related to permitted uses in the village’s zoning districts, including allowing assisted living facilities in the village’s R2 district, which is mainly concentrated along East Burlington and East Quincy streets. Assisted living facilities were already permitted in the R3 and R4 districts.
New language also creates standards for off-street parking in the new TOD district and for bicycle, moped and motorcycle parking, specifically allows tattoo and body piercing establishments in the TOD district, allows office uses in ground-floor spaces in all commercial districts, allows as special uses hotels and motels in the Harlem Avenue commercial and downtown retail districts as well as banquet/conference facilities in Harlem Avenue commercial districts and the village’s central business district.