NORTHBROOK — A potential new look for downtown Northbrook got a boost from the Village Board of Trustees at its regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 8 at Village Hall.
The board suggested a joint meeting with the Plan Commission as early as January to talk about overhauling the zoning requirements for the central business district.
A review of changes to downtown zoning has been afoot for nearly a year with different board members taking varying positions, leaving the Plan Commission uncertain about how to proceed with its recommendations to the board, according to Thomas Poupard, the director of development and planning services.
The lack of vision prompted Village President Sandra Frum to warn of more confusion by developers like the Jacobs Companies of Deerfield. She said she wants it to stop.
“If we don’t give the Plan Commission some direction they will continue to be all over the place,” Frum said. “With things like Jacobs they are asking for something more specific from us.”
Jacobs will have its fourth public hearing Jan. 19 on a proposed 72-unit townhome development on the east side of Shermer Road between Waukegan Road and Church Street. At the third public hearing Dec. 1, company representatives left wondering what to do next.
“I heard a lot of divergent opinions, which makes it much more difficult to make the plan appealing,” Cal Bernstein, the Jacobs Companies lawyer, said at the Dec. 1 meeting.
Poupard suggested changing the height requirements for the downtown C-3 commercial district to three stories and allowing buildings up to five stories if certain conditions are met. He said this is called a 3-1-1 plan.
“You can build three stories by right,” Poupard said. “You can build four with a special use permit and five if the upper levels are set back from the ground floor. This will send a message to the development community we are open to develop downtown.”
There are two downtown parcels that have been ripe for development for a long time and there have been no sniffs, according to Poupard. He said one is a former printing plant near Walters Avenue backing up to the railroad tracks. The other is a vacant half-acre parcel at Cherry Lane and Meadow Road.
“That one will need some parking help,” Poupard said. He said changing parking restrictions is another part of the rezoning plan.
Though the two downtown shopping centers on opposite sides of Church Street are C-2 zoning, according to Poupard, he said their owners could seek a change to C-3 to build taller buildings there.
Though Frum got strong support when she expressed her wish for more clarity, not every trustee agreed. Trustee Todd Heller had reservations.
“I’m not sure I want to see that,” Heller said.
Trustee Michael Scolaro said he wanted to formalize zoning ideas a little more before the board sent potential code revisions back to the Plan Commission for further consideration. After Frum suggested a meeting of the board’s Planning & Zoning Committee, Trustee Jack Karagianis put out the idea of the two bodies meeting together.
In other business, the board sent a proposal for a canine boarding and training facility at 1810 Skokie Blvd. to the Plan Commission with a positive recommendation.