City of Highland Park Zoning Board of Appeals met April 18
City of Highland Park Zoning Board of Appeals met April 18.
Here is the minutes provided by the board:
I. CALL TO ORDER
At 7:30 PM Chair Chaplik called the meeting to order and asked Planner Burhop to call the roll.
Members Present: Bay, Bina, Chaplik, Cullather, Fettner, Henry, Putzel
Members Absent: None
Planner Burhop took the roll and declared a quorum present.
Staff Present: Burhop, Later
Student Rep.: Edheimer
Council Liaison: Stolberg
II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
April 4, 2019
Chair Chaplik entertained a motion to approve the minutes of the April 4, 2019 meeting. Vice Chair Cullather so motioned, seconded by Member Bina. Members Fettner and Bay abstained. On a voice vote the Chair declared the motion carried unanimously.
III. PUBLICATION DATE FOR NEW BUSINESS: 4-3-19
IV. BUSINESS FROM THE PUBLIC: None
V. OLD BUSINESS:
Property: 2140 Tanglewood Ct., Highland Park, IL 60035
Zoning District R4
Appellant: Paul & Leah Suellentrop
Address: 349 Thornwood Ln., Lake Bluff, IL, 60044
Planner Burhop stated the applicant had requested in writing a continuance to the May 2, 2019 ZBA Meeting.
Chair Chaplik entertained a motion to continue this item to May 2, 2019. Vice Chair Cullather so motioned, seconded by Member Henry. On a voice vote, the Chair declared the motion carried unanimously.
IV. NEW BUSINESS:
Property: 945 North Ave., Highland Park, IL
Zoning District: R6
Appellant: Dr. Mike Lubelfeld, Superintendent, Dist. 112 Address: 1936 Green Bay Rd., Highland Park, IL 60035
Member Henry stated he was a member of the Dist. 112 board in 1999 and had consulted with Corporation Counsel who did not believe that was a reason to recuse himself and thought it appropriate to have this on the record.
Chair Chaplik stated he was on the Dist. 112 Reconfiguration Committee and did not believe this was a reason to recuse himself.
Planner Burhop made a presentation for the above item including site location, aerial photo, map, project background, two heritage trees proposed for removal, tree photos, existing and proposed school, forestry referral and request.
Councilman Stolberg stated the conditions for Plan and Design Commission (“PDC”) approval were adhering to obvious construction hours during the week and weekend, discussion of the west property line heading north regarding adding more shrubbery to provide additional screening, vanity line on brick and exterior light limits. All conditions proposed were acceptable to the applicant.
Dr. Mike Lubelfeld, Superintendent, 1936 Green Bay Rd., North Shore School Dist. 112, Highland Park, IL, made a presentation including the mandate to provide high quality education, the 1959 building is hindering education, will serve the greater good in community, best way to modernize school, cannot avoid removal of heritage trees.
Ms. Leanne Meyer-Smith, Wight Engineers, 2500 N. Frontage, Darien, IL, Architect, made a presentation including the need to modernize building, removal of portable buildings on site, programs have been added over the years, maintain capital investments, support curriculum evolution, maximizing current and future resources, timeline, existing front façade, rendering of new addition, aerial view of new building, proposed site plan, site photos, landscape plan, adding 44 trees to site, using lumber from heritage trees in entry to building, main entry, façade renderings, courtyard view, music addition, first and second floor plans, LEED silver building, alternate site plans and field uses.
Vice Chair Cullather asked if both trees are within the new footprint. Ms. Meyer-Smith stated one of them is slightly outside.
Member Fettner asked if any arborists put together a plan to possibly save them during construction.
Mr. Steve Gregory, Erickson Engineering, 135 S. Jefferson St., Chicago, IL, Landscape Architect, stated the tree does fall outside the footprint, a large portion of root zone would be impacted, and they would be taking two-thirds of the root zone. The chances of it surviving are minimal. Cutting off some of the root zone could make it unstable. The other tree is at the corner of the proposed building.
Member Bay stated the Forester had a different opinion.
Mr. Gregory stated he mentioned if they rebuilt within the existing footprint they could save it. He also mentioned building up vertically without expanding the footprint.
Member Bay mentioned the tree outside the footprint and the downside of building and trying to preserve the tree.
Mr. Gregory stated it is unlikely to survive and there is the possibility it would become weakened and unstable.
Member Bay asked would they know that after it was done or just hope for the best. Mr. Gregory stated that is why they did not want to say they could save it.
Chair Chaplik asked if it was a safety hazard.
Mr. Gregory stated long term it could be if the tree became unstable. You might not notice it in the first one to three years, but over time it would shorten the tree’s life and pose the potential for it to be weakened due to wind damage.
Chair Chaplik asked about the curved aspect of the design and if they straightened it out they would lose some square footage and if they could find it elsewhere.
Ms. Meyer-Smith stated they looked at that and they would lose four classrooms. They would also be getting too close to Wayne Thomas School.
Member Bina asked about alternates and if they did not obtain their variance tonight how that would affect the timeline.
Ms. Meyer-Smith stated they would probably have to delay for a year to next summer. They are into documents and are going out for bids for the site work. They would have to take that back and start over. It would be a significant time disruption and another year added.
Member Bina stated he had not seen where the Forester ever supported a tree removal and he had not seen any evidence about reasonable alternates. He asked if there had been any outreach to the Forester.
Ms. Meyer-Smith stated when they did see his objection they had not submitted any alternate designs to him previously. They did not realize they would need to submit them.
Member Henry asked if they had to go with one of the alternates and move the sewer line, what would be the approximate cost to do this.
Mr. David Norris, Gilbane, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, Project Executive, stated it would be a significant cost of six figures and they would have to move into the soccer field area.
Member Henry stated he understood they needed to consider the costs which is not an insignificant factor.
Chair Chaplik asked if they were doing this before Edgewood so the whole larger project would be impacted.
Ms. Meyer-Smith stated the children move from Northwood into Elm Place during construction and then move back into Northwood and then Edgewood moves into Elm Place so they are all connected.
Mr. Henry Kelter, 2661 Marl Oak, Highland Park, IL, Field & Safety Director, stated approximately in the middle of the field is more storm drainage that extends all the way south and then cuts under the driveway into the other storm sewer. That would have to be destroyed. There is a big reservoir in the corner to contain the extra water.
Mr. David Mokotoff, 2920 Priscilla, Highland Park, IL, stated he was here as a resident and would not swear to anything. A heritage tree is defined as something unique and irreplaceable. He has lived there 31 years and used to be able to look down his street and not see any other houses due to the trees. He came home one day and at the corner of Priscilla and Birch the trees were gone and a fence was there. He received a packet from Dist. 112 regarding the hearings. He did not understand if there is an opportunity to potentially save an item that is unique and irreplaceable why they would not try to save it. He was amazed by historic preservation and if someone asked to landmark his house he would be limited in what he could do. They will save inanimate objects because other people like them. The trees help with drainage and he was concerned about the project in general. He did not understand why they would not try to save the back tree which does not present an immediate hazard. He could not understand the rationale in killing a living thing that the Forester says is 240 years old. He was concerned this was a $37,000,000 project and was not sure if any of the parties live in Highland Park. He felt it was in his interest and his neighbors’ to see if the Board would consider saving either one of trees. Using the lumber from the trees was not satisfactory.
Member Bina asked if they had received comments from other neighbors.
Planner Burhop stated no. The ZBA sign was posted, the mailing was sent and notice was posted.
Mr. Steve Pollack, 2859 Summit, Highland Park, IL, stated there are five houses to the west of the school with backyards adjacent to the school and he is the fifth house, current landscape plan has 42 arbor vitaes, is seeking more shielding for the fourth and fifth houses, PDC agreed, wanted approval conditional on putting in more evergreens, has no problem with project going forward, putting in a significant number of trees would counterbalance, increased bulk and density.
Councilman Stolberg stated what is before the ZBA is approving or not the removal of the heritage trees. He hoped adding 20 more arbor vitae is something the District is willing to do. If they wanted to condition this upon the removals it is not in the standards for granting or not granting the removal of the trees.
Chair Chaplik stated they did not have the information to address something outside the scope of this request.
Councilman Stolberg stated he did not like removing trees and an arbor vitae is not a fair trade for removing a tree. It is not a substitute for removing a 200-year old tree. For this body the tree removal should be on its own merits to the value of the heritage trees.
Mr. Pollack stated there is what people are willing to do at the beginning of the project and a year and a half later when they are implementing this landscaping plan it could be different.
Councilman Stolberg stated it would be better to plead his case when the findings come back from the Plan Commission than conditional upon the removal of the heritage trees.
Mr. Pollack stated he was accepting they are going to be removed and it could still be conditioned on some relief. He stated he had drafted a proposed modification and he is not asking for something new.
Member Henry asked if the PDC has already stated trees have to be planted in that area and a condition the District has to come back with. He asked if the appropriate remedy was before the PDC.
Mr. Pollack stated they did not seek to do this.
Member Henry stated they asked the District to come back with a revised plan. Mr. Pollack stated there would be no more hearings and this was approved.
Councilman Stolberg stated he would have the opportunity to view the findings of fact in the next packet before the next PDC meeting. When the PDC directs staff to draft findings with conditions to be met by the applicant the findings will outline the conditions. When it comes before the PDC for findings the PDC will ask the applicant to submit a drawings or identify how the conditions are or are not being met. What he is asking for should be addressed to the PDC.
Mr. Pollack stated they said there would be no more meetings and it was approved.
Planner Burhop stated Mr. Pollack submitted five copies of his modification and handed them out to the Board and stated one would be kept on file for public inspection.
Mr. Mokotoff stated he was not schooled in how politics works and at the end of his testimony on 4-16-19 he asked what was the next step and he was told there was no next step and what was approved was approved.
Mr. Pollack stated he thought the Board had the authority to grant a variance and instead of demanding four trees be replaced they could demand six trees be replaced. He did not see how what he was requesting was different. He thought there could be conditions.
Chair Chaplik stated he lives relative to Edgewood similar to where Mr. Pollack lives relative to Northwood. There was a tree concern relative to Edgewood when they built the ring road. From his experience the District even after the plans were approved, added more trees to address the neighbors’ concerns. They have been attentive to the needs of the neighbors.
Mr. Pollack stated he had submitted his concerns to Supt. Lubelfeld and he was communicative with him but it still did not make it into the plans. He still had to go the meeting and get the PDC to say it was going to be a condition.
Councilman Stolberg stated he just spoke with Senior Planner Cross and these were part of the design review process so they will not come back which means it will not be renoticed to the public. Because it was a condition of the design review approval it obligates the District to work with staff to try and satisfy that condition. The District was amenable and would be working with staff to meet the conditions. The only way the condition would not be met is that if there was something in the path that was not moveable, e.g., a sewer.
Chair Chaplik stated they could add conditions relative to the findings, but he did not know if they had enough information to make that kind of condition.
Mr. Pollack stated he is not looking to have a row of arbor vitae.
Mr. Kelter stated he moved to Marl Oak because of trees, what the District, Park District and AYSO have in common is they do things for the children, over the last decade since they took over management of field some remarkable things have happened, children used to have run down street because they did not have adequate athletic fields to run on, they had to walk two or three blocks to play soccer, now they have their own soccer field, they fixed the fields and the children could play and have a better time on the fields, have games from 8:45 to 5:00, everyone uses the field, limited in field space, to destroy tree hurts him but sometimes it is for the greater good, children come before trees, the only other place they can play is Sleepy Hollow.
Member Fettner stated it was a great presentation and he appreciated the neighbors’ input. This renovation is for high quality education and looking at it, this is the best way to get done. He thought is was the only way to get the best possible project. If they are going to put the money in the school systems they should do it the best possible way. If it is for the greater good to get some state-of-the-art schools then that is what they have to do. His one concern was the tree outside the footprint and is it worth trying to save it and what was the harm in trying. It would cost a little more but it could be worth it if it could be saved. It is not in the footprint and he wanted to see some effort made to try and save it. If it cannot be saved so be it. He thought it met the standards.
Member Bina agreed and thought this was a unique case. This is a permit to knock down trees and there is a different level they are looking at. He thought this was the least worst option available and everyone spent a lot of time and all alternates were considered in good faith. He would discount the Forester’s memo in some respects that this was not well thought out. He mentioned the tree near the footprint and thought the professionals were trying to save it. He would support the permit request as presented and thought the mandatory standards had been met. He thought B and C of the discretionary standards had also been met.
Member Bay stated it was difficult for him and he agreed with the other members. He was struggling with mandatory finding 1D that there are no practicable alternates. He was not sure it met the standard and wanted to hear from the other members.
Member Putzel stated she agreed with the other members and was stuck on 1D. She thought it was an excellent job in explaining the other options and why they were not the most effective solutions. If they are going to do the project they should do it right. They do take heritage trees seriously and it is unusual they see tree cases at all and particularly with something that is not a private residence. They had done their homework and she appreciated what the landscape architect stated about trying to save the tree. It seemed more dangerous to try and save it and have it fall on the building or on one of the children. She thought it met the standards.
Member Henry stated probably no one knows the property and District better than him. He was chair of the Environmental Committee when the tree preservation ordinance was enacted. He served on the old Dist. 111 board and the Dist. 112 board. He has served on a number of superintendents committees that have tried to deal with the issues of enrollment, ageing school facilities, 21st century education and all it brings to bear. He was troubled by mandatory finding D because there was nothing in the packet that would indicate that other alternates were considered. He was confident they would see that. He noted that the presentation by the applicant did cover alternatives. He thought the scope of the project and the alternates, safety issues, emergency responders and the cost of moving the sewer line satisfied the mandatory findings and two of the four selective findings. He lived in the neighborhood and his children went to that school. He would be in favor as submitted.
Student Rep. Edheimer stated he was impressed by the plan and in the long term it could be for the better. There would be more trees added and in 70 years those trees could be in their prime.
Vice Chair Cullather stated in reviewing the standards he thought they should view it not as one application, but as two applications for tree removal. The standards only refers to one tree, not multiple trees. He thought they should look at them individually. For the tree within the footprint he thought it met the standards. For one outside the footprint he did not think standards D or E have been met. He would ask the Chair to split this into two orders and to vote on each tree individually.
Chair Chaplik stated he was concerned about the application because he did not see anything about alternates. The presentation was helpful on alternates. Taking down heritage trees is one of the most difficult tasks they face. He thought they had met all the mandatory standards and two of the selective findings. He was concerned about the tree nearby and lopping off one-third of the root structure. It is right next to the building and could come down without notice and could be a safety hazard. He has seen the Forester comment at other times in multiple situations when construction is going to remove a meaningful part of the root structure and it is dangerous. He would approve as the application as requested.
Member Bina motioned to approve the heritage tree removal permit as requested by the applicant to remove two heritage trees and to direct staff to prepare an order. Member Henry seconded.
Planner Burhop called the roll:
Ayes: Bay, Putzel, Bina, Henry, Fettner, Chaplik Nays: Cullather
The Chair declared the Motion passed 6-1.
Chair Chaplik entertained a motion to approve the order as amended. Member Bina moved that the subject tree from the property be modified to read “trees”. Member Bay seconded.
Planner Burhop called the roll:
Ayes: Bay, Putzel, Bina, Henry, Fettner, Chaplik Nays: Cullather
The Chair declared the Motion passed 6-1.
VII. STAFF REPORT: None
1. Discussion of ZBA Guidelines for Continuances and Late Submissions
Planner Burhop stated he had guidelines for late submissions he would be submitting at the next meeting on May 2nd.
Chair Chaplik entertained a motioned to adjourn. Member Fettner so motioned, seconded by Member Putzel. On a voice vote, the Chair declared the motion passed unanimously.
The Zoning Board of Appeals adjourned at 9:12 PM.