City of Highland Park Zoning Board of Appeals met July 20.
City of Highland Park Zoning Board of Appeals met July 20.
Here is the minutes provided by the Board:
I. Call to Order
At 7:34 pm Chair Henry called the meeting to order and asked Planner Burhop to call the roll.
Members Present: Bina, Fettner, Henry, Muller, Putzel
Members Absent: Chaplik, Cullather
Planner Burhop took the roll and declared a quorum present.
Staff Present: Burhop, Haddad
Student Rep.: None
Council Liaison: None
II. Approval of Minutes
Chair Henry entertained a motion to approve the minutes of the 7-6-17 meeting. Member Fettner so motioned, seconded by Member Muller. Member Bina abstained, stating he was absent at the 7-6-17 ZBA meeting. On a voice vote the Chair declared the motion carried unanimously.
III. Publication Date for New Business: 7-5-17
IV. Business from the Public: None
V. Old Business:
Property: 330 Cedar Ave.
Zoning District: R4
Appellant: Elan Peltz
Address: 330 Cedar Ave., Highland Park, IL 60035
Planner Burhop made a presentation for the above item including project background, relief requested, existing topography, site photos, history of property, note on exempted structures in SSZ, lower level deck review, NRC review of June 29, 2017, plats of survey, original and revised plans, proposed lower level plan, elevations, deck detail, engineering review, neighbor comments, NRC consideration and requested variation, and history of permitting.
Member Muller asked how they knew the deck was for the upper deck.
Planner Burhop stated based on plat of survey you would not know. He pieced it together from multiple strands of evidence, including permits on file.
Member Muller stated he thought there was no doubt there was a deck on the first level in the past. It appears there is some doubt about that and there was a letter in the packet from the previous owner stating there was no deck. He asked if they know for sure there was a deck in the past on first level.
Planner Burhop stated they cannot verify the construction date of any lower level decks. Planner Burhop stated a deck is currently existing on the lower level, but there is no evidence the deck is lawful. Planner Burhop stated there is no permit on file allowing the lower level deck. Planner Burhop stated the lower level deck is not a lawfully existing structure.
Member Muller asked if they have a deck on the second floor they have the right to build one on the first of the same size.
Planner Burhop stated the applicant could build a lower level deck within the lawful, previously existing footprint of the upper level deck, through the permitting process, within the footprint of the upper level deck. Planner Burhop stated that he cannot guarantee a building permit approval.
Member Muller stated it did not matter what happened in the past, they can build one the same size as the second level.
Planner Burhop stated the applicant could apply for a permit to build the lower level deck that is within the lawful, previously existing upper level deck footprint.
Member Bina asked how big the upper level deck was.
Planner Burhop stated approximately 203 s.f. Planner Burhop stated he ascertained this number of permits on file and plats of survey submitted by the applicant.
Mr. Elan Peltz, 330 Cedar Ave., Highland Park, IL 60035, made a presentation including signatures for support, zoning request, plans, 13 neighborhood letters, modest deck extension of lower deck, conflict in information, lower deck was pre-existing, Mr. Stone claims it was a planting bed, on the 2002 survey there was a deck, neighbor’s deck is just like the same beams they have, asking for 8’ extension towards yard of a by right pre- existing deck, were granted permits for deck and patio that were rescinded because it was determined the better course was to come before ZBA, this satisfies all eight of the zoning standards, subject site is unique, hardship to the petitioner, not a mere convenience, this was substantiated in a memo, no harm has been asserted by the people who are opposing the request, engineers have confirmed no harm will result from this request, neighbor’s objections do not apply in this case as they have not put forth any evidence of harm and is untrue factually, petitioner’s property is classified in steep slope, topographically unique site, small request, if this is not granted the applicant is deprived of the reasonable use of the property, the NRC has approved this request, not asking for much, special exception is justified, are not asking to build in any area of the steep slope that meets the steep slope definition, deck is attached to the house and sits on flat land, neighbor stated he could not make improvements on his house so why should applicant be able to, his house is higher up in a steep slope, applicant’s property is at base of ravine, neighbor has no flat land, issue is not whether living in a ravine is a hardship, issue is whether the hardship with the property is topographically unique, question is whether a small exception will deprive the owner from reasonable use of property, Mr. Stone says the hardship is self-imposed, hardship is due to topography, use of area parks, look at rules and regulations and provide relief, entire property is in SSZ, 8’ extension to a by-right deck, a deminimus request, not a mere convenience, not asking for massive exception, did not create hardship, every property is not the same, sometimes exceptions must be granted, neighbors have offered no evidence variation will be detrimental to environment, engineers comments stated it will not impose no burden on the slope, not detrimental to public welfare, renovation of home has been done with sustainable materials, proposed variation will not impair light or air, no evidence it will alter essential character of neighborhood, decking is all throughout neighborhood on adjacent properties, same beams, many neighbors support the application, it is consistent with essential character of neighborhood, home has been nominated for preservation of the year, existing deck is not in a slope, deck is not a threat to ravine - it is on flat land, purpose of zoning code is to preserve the ravines, poses zero threat to ravine, deck does not threaten views from other homes.
Member Putzel asked if the lower deck was existing.
Mr. Peltz stated the upper was existing and the lower deck was on the survey and existing.
Member Putzel asked if they had received approval for the lower deck before. She asked if it exceeded the approval he had received.
Mr. Peltz stated it did probably by 1’.
Member Bina asked if the lower deck is currently useable.
Mr. Peltz stated he had to finish it.
Member Bina asked before they exceeded it was it usable. He asked when they constructed the lower deck.
Mr. Peltz stated the pre-existing deck existed. They simply put wood on top of a frame that was pre-existing. There was a deck there before.
Member Bina asked if there were beams there.
Mr. Peltz stated there were beams and a concrete foundation.
Member Putzel asked if it was a deck or planters.
Mr. Peltz stated there are no planters. He stated there were concrete pillars under the pre- existing deck. The only thing they did was put wood on top of a pre-existing deck. There was confusion when the deck permits were granted. There were many meetings with the City and they made a mistake and issued the permits. He was decking by right.
Member Fettner asked if the relief was being sought for anything extending the old portion of the deck.
Mr. Peltz stated it is being sought for the 8’ past.
Member Fettner asked if this was the relief all they are asking for.
Mr. Peltz confirmed this.
Member Bina asked about the fundamental of the hardship and why they need 8’.
Mr. Peltz stated the hardship is looked at based on the unique circumstances of the land. This is a deminimus request. The City gave a repair and replace permit. He thought he could extend the deck 8’. It makes a difference to not have the 8’. It says you have 7,000 s.f. of land that does not hit the threshold criteria of steep slope. You can’t do anything in that zone. The extension is critically important because you can’t do anything with the other part of the land. They can’t have swing set or a patio. They are asking for an 8’ extension on a pre-existing by right deck. The engineers have said this is fine. The hardship is having topographically unique land.
Member Muller stated if it was not for the topography they would be able to build the deck by right whatever size they wanted.
Mr. Peltz said they would not be able to because of the steep slope zone.
Ms. Donna Stone, 326 Cedar, Highland Park, IL, stated they lived east of the Peltz’s, they had lived in their house 44 years, photo taken by previous owner, the bottom level used to have indoor swimming pool, glass doors were to air out the house, railroad ties are to hold soil, ravine is a treasure, misconception that he already had a lower deck, initial request was based on false information, no permits were found because there were no decks, Peltz’ have changed the appearance, much harm has been done to landscape, 13 letters not from adjacent neighbors, they are protectors of the ravine.
Member Fettner asked if it affected her opinion that the swing set, patio and fire pit were moved.
Ms. Stone stated she had no problem with building in the footprint.
Planner Burhop stated the City staff’s comments are in the packet, and City staff does not opine as to the standards of approval, that is the Board’s job. He stated City staff does not determine if the property is unique or if the applicant has a hardship, that is the Board’s job. Planner Burhop reminded the Board that staff’s comments are in the packet, attached as memos. Planner Burhop stated the NRC does not opine as to unique characteristics of the property and the NRC’s consideration is only related to environmental impacts. He stated the property is entirely within the SSZ and some area at the bottom is not more than 10% grade but is still within the Steep Slope Zone. In terms of the permit history, this is not an administrative hearing; however, the City was in error in issuing the permit for the fire pit and patio. However, the City was not in error in issuing the deck permit, because the permit was to re-board the lawfully existing upper level deck and not to construct a new lower level deck. The City states none of the lower level deck is lawfully existing. Construction of the lower deck beyond the lawfully existing upper level deck footprint is what is before the Board.
Member Fettner asked if the NRC opined that the improvement would not affect the ravine.
Planner Burhop stated the NRC made that determination pursuant to the applicant reducing the scope of the project. There was some debate among NRC members and they achieved consensus that the patio and fire pit needed to be removed, in order to reduce the environmental impact on the Steep Slope Zone and bottom of the ravine.
Member Putzel asked if the support beams for lower deck were in the SSZ or in the flat part of the table land.
Planner Burhop stated it is all is within the SSZ, though the deck appears to be on the edge of the steep slope area and the flat area of the bottom of the ravine.
Chair Henry stated that although it may not be sloped, it is all steep slope zone by definition of the code.
Mr. Tom Stone, 326 Cedar, Highland Park, IL, stated Mr. Peltz’ claim misses the point, the petition is more about what is appropriate in the SSZ. Central to their decisions are findings regarding hardship, place to play, cannot claim hardship for pre-existing condition, there is a park one block from Mr. Peltz’ home, already had children when he purchased home, eight standards to be met, ZBA shall not vary regulations, variance does not meet seven of the standards, petitioner must meet standards, concerned about setting precedent, not in spirit of SSZ ordinances, will adversely affect property values.
Ms. Lisa Peltz, 330 Cedar Ave., Highland Park, IL 60035, stated they have an easement with the Stones that is eroding part of the ravines.
Chair Henry entertained a motion to close the proofs. Member Fettner so motioned, seconded by Member Bina. On a voice vote, the Chair declared the motion carried unanimously.
The following discussion took place by the Board:
• Member Bina stated he was not conducive to supporting the petition. He was struggling with the hardship and they knew the conditions when they bought the property. He was also struggling with the reasonable return issue and the neighborhood opposition.
• Member Putzel stated she thought they could realize a reasonable return. She thought they met many of the standards and that it was an unusual property. Having the entire home in the SSZ is a topographical hardship. She agreed that you know what you are buying when you but it. She was struggling with the issue with the neighbors and did not know if an additional 8’ is a hardship.
• Member Fettner stated he appreciated that the petitioner removed the fire pit, the swing set and patio. They are asking for an 8’ extension of an existing deck and could see the hardship. He stated that cannot do anything with the property. 8’ is fairly insubstantial and he would support the petition. The one standard he was troubled with was the reasonable return. If the petition was approved they should make a note the extension should only be 8’. He was sympathetic with the Stone’s, but the NRC had ruled that this would not adversely affect the ravine. He did not think an 8’ extension on piers would adversely affect the ravine. He would support the petition.
• Member Muller stated he understood the neighbor’s opinions and thought they were valid. He mentioned the reasonable return and the minimal variance they can request. They have a 9’ by 20’ deck. He was not sure what they are proposing and it is almost like a living room on the ravine. He was not sure it is minimal and felt if the existing deck was 12’ x 23’, which is allowed by right, it would be a nice size deck. It would be a minor encroachment if it extended a little and it would soften the look of the house. He thought they could have something smaller.
• Chair Henry stated he had been struggling with this since the last meeting. The Board is required to apply standards and they have some discretion. He did not think it was enough to say no harm, no foul. He understood that the bottom area of the ravine itself is not sloped, but it does fall within the SSZ. It is not insignificant that the NRC did not find it problematic. When we buy a property as is. He was struggling with the hardship issue and the application of the SSZ to flat land may not seem fair. When he read the standard and it states “the plight of the petitioner is due to unique circumstances and the proposed variation will not merely serve as a convenience to the petitioner.” This is what he is focused on. They can build the deck as long as it is within the lawfully existing upper level footprint, he was having trouble finding it meets the standard to extend it our for another 8’. He stated he could not support the application.
Chair Henry entertained a motion to approve the variance as requested subject to the relief being sought not to exceed 8’ and the NRC recommendation of the City Forester’s seeding plan. Member Fettner so motioned, seconded by Member Muller.
Planner Burhop stated the extension is 7.75’ and reminded the Board of the NRC’s recommended condition regarding the City Forester’s recommendation for seeding. Planner Burhop stated the 7.75’ condition isn’t necessary as if the Board approves the variation, it would be limited to the plans the Board is considering and that is before them. Member Fettner removed the 8’ condition from his motion, agreed to by Member Muller.
Planner Burhop called the roll:
Nays: Putzel, Bina, Muller, Henry
The Chair declared the motion to approve with the condition of NRC seeding failed 1-4.
Planner Burhop stated the variation is still ripe for consideration, another motion to approve with a different condition could be made, a motion to deny could be made, the ZBA could continue the item, or offer the applicant the chance to continue or withdraw.
Chair Henry stated they could continue the matter. If it is denied then it is over.
Mr. Peltz stated they were done.
Planner Burhop asked if the applicant was withdrawing the application. If the Board denies it then the applicant does not have the right to bring the same application back to the Board.
Chair Henry told Mr. Peltz if the application is withdrawn he has the right to come back. If it is denied then it is denied.
Mr. Peltz stated they would withdraw the application.
Chair Henry stated they would consider the application withdrawn as stated by Mr. Peltz.
Planner Burhop stated that as the application was now withdrawn, it is removed from the Board’s consideration and a vote is no longer necessary.
Property: 1919 Dale Ave.
Zoning District: R4
Appellant: Paul Guggenheim
Address: 385 Laurel Ave., Highland Park, IL, 60035
Planner Burhop stated staff had been directed to draft findings of approval contingent on the applicant depicting windows on the north elevation plans. Planner Burhop stated such plans had been submitted and illustrated where the windows are on the presentation, showing the Board the new plans.
Chair Henry stated the application was granted subject to an approval order with those provisions.
Planner Burhop stated this was correct.
Chair Henry entertained a motion to approve the granted order as presented including the revised plan dated July 20, 2017. Member Muller so motioned, seconded by Member Fettner.
On a voice vote, the Chair declared the motion carried unanimously.
Property: 229 Park Ave.
Zoning District: R5
Appellant: Teton Tack & Feed LLC
Address: 3730 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL, 60613
The Chair stated this item is continued to the August 3, 2017 meeting.
VI. New Business:
Property: 65 S. Deere Park Dr. & 77 S. Deere Park Dr.
Zoning District: R4
Appellant: Joel Hirsch
Address: 395 E. Dundee Rd., Suite 350, Wheeling, IL
The Chair stated item is continued to the August 3, 2017 meeting.
Property: 556 Cherokee Rd., Highland Park, IL 60035
Zoning District: R5
Appellant: Janice Greenwald
Address: 566 Cherokee Rd., Highland Park, IL 60035
Planning Intern Haddad made a presentation for the above item including project background, plat of survey, site plan, first floor plan, aerial view, building setback, photos and requested variations.
Member Fettner asked if an overhang protruded, where does one measure from for established building setback does.
Planner Burhop stated when you measure on GIS they take whatever is the closest point.
Chair Henry stated the question is do you measure from the front of the stoop or from the bulk of the building.
Member Fettner stated if the stoop is the structure do you measure from the structure.
Member Muller stated if the overhang is only 2’ it does not count.
Planner Burhop stated for the established building setback it is measured from the front lot line to the foundation of a principal or accessory building. However, for the enforcement of established building setbacks it doesn’t allow a new structure or addition/building to an existing structure. He reiterated it is calculated on the principal or accessory foundation of a building, and it is enforced to any structure.
Member Fettner asked if a stoop is a structure.
Planner Burhop stated it was.
Member Fettner asked if the established front yard setback is taken from the stoop.
Planner Burhop stated it is taken from the foundation of the building.
Member Fettner asked if the structure is put on with the piers and overhang, then any new established front yard setback will be taken from the new structure.
Planner Burhop stated in the definition of established building setback this is not considered a building.
Member Fettner stated he was trying to figure out if this would affect the established front yard setback.
Planner Burhop stated the new stoop and canopy would not affect the established building setback for the property, as the measurement is taken from the building foundation, not a structure.
Chair Henry stated as noted in Item ii of the legal notice document, they are not encroaching into the established building setback if it is not a building.
Planner Burhop stated in the definition for established building setback Article II states how they calculate it. If you go to Article VII it states no new structure or addition to an existing structure shall be closer to the street than the established building setback.
Ms. Janice Greenwald, 556 Cherokee Rd., Highland Park, IL, Applicant, stated her mother lives with her and is 103. It is important to have some shelter from the weather as they enter and exit. The columns will be on the existing stoop.
Chair Henry entertained a motion to close the proofs. Member Muller so motioned, seconded by Member Fettner. On a voice vote, the Chair declared the motion carried unanimously.
The following discussion took place by the Board:
• Member Fettner stated he would support the application and it has no effect on the established building setback and meets the standards.
• Member Muller stated he agreed.
• Member Bina stated he agreed.
• Member Putzel stated she agreed.
• Chair Henry stated the street curves in and all the properties have similar front yards and part of that is impacted by the way Cherokee curves. He would support the application.
Chair Henry entertained a motion to approve the application. Member Muller motioned to direct staff to prepare findings of fact approving the variance, seconded by Member Fettner.
Planner Burhop called the roll:
Ayes: Putzel, Bina, Fettner, Muller, Henry
The Chair declared the motion passed 5-0.
Chair Henry entertained a motion to grant the approval order as submitted. Member Bina so motioned, seconded by Member Fettner. On a voice vote, the Chair declared the motion passed unanimously.
VII. Staff Report
1. The Board will consider adopting rules related to limiting either the number of cases considered during a meeting or a similar type of rule, such as limiting how late a meeting will last.
Chair Henry stated they have the right to limit how late a meeting will last. They can either set a time deadline or limit the number of matters. He thought the number of matters was fairer, but that did not mean they would end earlier.
Member Fettner stated it was tough is set a time limit.
Chair Henry stated he agreed and thought the only fair way was to limit the number of matters in one meeting. He stated they do a service for the community and it was not fair if they do not have a quorum the applications are rescheduled for the next meeting.
Member Putzel asked about a time limit stating no new cases after 10:00.
Chair Henry stated it would be hard to be fair to applicants if one application went a long time.
Member Fettner stated they can set it where they hear a certain number of petitions per meeting and it would be at their discretion if they want to add to the following meeting.
Member Muller stated the can decide the number of cases.
Chair Henry stated if they get their application in by the deadline date they are on the agenda.
Planner Burhop stated in the past there may have been an informal policy limiting an agenda to five cases, but this is not within the Code and he has been taking all applications that come in on time.
Chair Henry stated they could limit time for presentations and appellate courts do this. This presents certain problems because they are fact finders and they also give voice to the community.
Member Bina stated if they know of a hearing with a lot of opposition maybe they could limit the time to 10 minutes each.
Member Fettner stated he is hesitant to impose restrictions.
Member Muller stated maybe they could move things faster with no meetings lasting beyond 11:00.
Chair Henry stated he thought that was unfair. If someone was sitting here half the night you cannot say you are cutting them off. He suggested they give it some more thought and maybe they could encourage applicants to be more concise.
Chair Henry stated Hart Passman was at the last meeting and stated they did not need to do some of the things they did. They do not need to close the proofs or separate the approval order from the vote for approval. Mr. Passman indicated he would be putting together some recommendations they could address in the fall. There is also some attention on Corporate Counsel’s part to have a training session.
Planner Burhop stated it was a Monday or Wednesday after Thanksgiving, either the last week of November or the first week of December. He had a reminder in October to remind the Board and can remind the Board earlier, if necessary.
Member Muller stated in the past they had findings of fact at one meeting and the approval order at the next.
Chair Henry entertained a motioned to adjourn. Member Muller so motioned, seconded by Member Bina. On a voice vote, the Chair declared the motion passed unanimously.
The Zoning Board of Appeals adjourned at 9:50 pm.