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La Grange Plan Commission moves project forward with negative recommendation

Residents and Village Board members gathered at Village Hall to hear the outcome of the Aug. 12 Plan Commission meeting regarding the proposed multiple family residential building at 40 S. Ashland Ave.
Residents and Village Board members gathered at Village Hall to hear the outcome of the Aug. 12 Plan Commission meeting regarding the proposed multiple family residential building at 40 S. Ashland Ave.

LA GRANGE – A proposal for the construction of a multiple family apartment building in La Grange at the corner of Ashland and Harris avenues will move forward with a negative recommendation from the village of La Grange Plan Commission after its meeting Aug. 12.

Four of the commissioners voted against the proposal and 3 voted in favor.

Community Development Director Patrick Benjamin said he'd love to offer up a more precise description as to why the commission voted the way it did, but due to the "absence of much commentary," Benjamin is still searching for that answer himself.

At the meeting, John Schiess, an architect and partner with the developer Brand & Co., presented a revised proposal to the commission that included lowering the structure by two feet, efforts to minimize the traffic outflow onto Harris Avenue and to better align the building with La Grange's design guidelines.

The multiple family residential building will have four floors of residences, each with diverse unit types, according to Schiess.

"We are providing something that's not available [in La Grange]," Schiess said. "These types of homes are not available ... but they're very much desired."

In the months prior to the commission's meeting, Schiess, representing the developer, sat down with local neighbors in an attempt to address their concerns about the building. Schiess said that during the meeting, residents opposed the develpment having retail or restaurant space, and voiced concerns about a nearby school zone safety on Harris Avenue and the potential for street flooding.

Schiess said the developers reached out to the neighbors because they wanted to hear about their concerns directly.

As the presentation progressed, Schiess pointing out that the vacant lot is currently a commercially zoned property.

"We believe this site should be an R-8 [zone]," Schiess said and asked the commission to rezone the lot for a residential property. "That rezoning of the site is supported by the [village's] comprehensive plan."

Although the commission was nearly split on the final vote, they did vote to change the property's zone to an R-8 residential code from a commercial zone.

Now, the developer and the village will work together to smooth out the details, including storm water management, structure height and zoning requirements.

While there is still work to be done, it is likely the proposal will advance to the next step by being brought in front of the Village Board, according to Community Development Director Patrick Benjamin. He said at the earliest, the proposal would be heard by trustees in late September.

Residents who attended the Plan Commission meeting, spoke out against the proposal and asked the commission to wait for a better option to fill the currently vacant space.

"It's a beautiful building, it's just in the wrong spot," said Todd Stahl, a resident of South Kensington Avenue.

When comparing the height of the proposed residential building with the AT&T building and neighboring family homes, Stahl said it just doesn't match.

"I believe the residences are needed and would be a benefit to the neighborhood," Stahl said. "But charge more and build less. And keep it in compliance within the building code."

Another proposal for a second apartment building, proposed for a vacant lot at 31 E. Ogden Ave., will go in front of the Village Board at its next meeting Aug. 25. The board will discuss the proposal, although no specific action will be taken.

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