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La Grange Park Village Board rejects amendment to promote front porches

Published: Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 3:40 p.m. CST

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LA GRANGE PARK – A proposed amendment to the village's zoning code to promote the building of front porches was denied by the Village Board Sept. 24. 

The amendment would have exempted the first 200 square feet of unenclosed front porches from the village's building coverage limit of 30 percent, allowing residents to build front porches without sacrificing interior space. 

The amendment was requested by McNaughton Development, Inc., the developer building eight homes in the new Heatherdale subdivision. Village staff supported the amendment, but the board voted 4-2 against it.

The four trustees who opposed the amendment argued it wasn't a change the village necessarily needed. They were also hesitant to amend the village's new zoning code, which was approved in 2011.

Village staff backed the proposed amendment because residents with front porches spend more time outside in front of their homes, which helps them come into contact with neighbors, said Emily Rodman, assistant village manager.

Rodman said that over the past five years, only four of the 12 houses that have been rebuilt in the village included front porches. 

"We felt that the data indicates that people are choosing to take the building coverage they are allowed and use it for interior space rather than use it for porches," she said. "We feel if that trend continues over the long term, we may see a loss of front porches in the community and that could impact characteristics of the community."

Trustee James Kucera, one of two board members who voted for the amendment, saw it as a chance to make the village more accommodating to potential homeowners.

"We want to make sure that we keep diversity of housing, well-built housing [and create] a strong housing market, giving people the option to put a front porch on," he said.

Although the amendment was intended to encourage the building of new front porches, it would have in effect given residents with existing porches a credit of 200 square feet to build on elsewhere on their property. 

To add a front porch to an existing house, residents must either have enough left-over building coverage space to build a porch without going beyond the 30 percent limit or apply for a variance. To obtain a variance, residents have to prove that they are being prevented from using their property in a manner they should be able to, Rodman said. A front porch would therefore not qualify.

"Long-term I think it might be something the board wants to revisit after we have more data available," Rodman said. 

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