How FAR can you go? That was the question posed in the most recent Board of Trustees meeting in Northbrook on March 10. It centered on a proposal by a resident in the 1000 block of Meadow Road to increase his floor area ratio beyond the town’s code in order to enclose a balcony that would prevent his roof from leaking.
The floor area ratio is the balance of a home’s total floor area comparative to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built. Currently Northbrook’s maximum stands at 40% for single family homes, a figure that was amended in recent years to prevent another explosion of “McMansions” resurrected from more modest teardowns.
Beyond this particular proposal, which asked for an additional 64 square feet or less than 1% beyond the admitted threshold, the Trustees wondered if there should not be a general text amendment to the town’s statute for such “de minimis requests” or those that arise from a problem-based situation such as the faulty roof.
Some questions asked if FAR increases to single family homes should be allowed if they do not adversely impact the neighborhood, or should the relief be allowed for existing homes after a specific amount of time past when it was first built? Furthermore the board wondered if this should be an exception rather than a variation that is deferred to the Zoning Board of Approvals after the resident provides proof of hardship.
While some board members were content with the idea that “rules are rules” and should be adhered to, another admitted that, “We have commercial developers asking for exceptions all the time, and in no way shape or form do we give those folks as hard of a time as residents.” Overall the Trustees carried the motion, which now moves to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Approvals with the hopes the resident could move forward with his build-on “before the rainy season.”
Budget Crisis Averted … For Now
At the beginning of the meeting, Village President Sandra Frum asked for a resolution urging Gov. Bruce Rauner and the general assembly to protect the Local Government Development Fund that has been a hotbed of debate in recent weeks. This is the funding municipalities receive from state income taxes, which Rauner proposed to cut in half in a budget plan to close the widening deficit in Illinois’ bank account. “Many municipalities are doing this and we should take a stance with them to protect the fund,” said Frum, receiving unanimous approval.
Later in the meeting, Trustee Michael Scolaro, a chairman of the Finance Committee, talked about a budget workshop held by appointed officials directly prior to the Board of Trustees Meeting. “We discussed our first crack at the budget this year. It was a spirited conversation, and the budget is in good shape,” he said, also admitting that there was talk regarding what the contingency plan would be should Gov. Rauner’s proposal be implemented. “We do have sufficient reserves and a potential surplus,” Scolaro said. With the Board’s approval, there was also an agreement to abate a portion of the property taxes for fire and police pensions.
Open for Business (Soon)
Three new businesses were also approved by the Board at this meeting, including the upscale Agave Anejo Mexican Grill that will be helmed by the owners behind Mount Propsect’s former Flamingo’s Fine Mexican Seafood, which was well-reviewed on the “Check, Please!” and “The Hungry Hound” TV programs. Agave Anejo, which looks to be a 4-to-5-star dining venue serving small batch tequila, looks to open by late April.
As well, two new fitness facilities are set to join the town of Northbrook with the Aesthetic Athletic Club taking over the former Fitness 19 spot in Sanders Court and the group training center Fit Enterprises moving into 1946-8 Raymond Drive.
“I don’t know if it’s because we are fit or fat that we need so many facilities,” joked Trustee Todd Heller to which President Frum retorted, “You’ll remember we approved that new Dunkin’ Donuts last week.”