NORTHBROOK — Northbrook merchants want more foot traffic in the central business district and the village may look at zoning code changes to spur such activity.
Village President Sandy Frum and the Village Board of Trustees very briefly discussed requiring retail or restaurant use of ground floor downtown space during a meeting January 24 at Village Hall.
None of them expressed an opinion in favor or against. Frum said she needed to know more so she can make an informed judgment.
Frum said in a DailyNorthShore.com interview after the meeting that she hears from people around town there is a desire to motivate more people to shop and eat downtown, and she is looking for ways to help make that happen.
“I have a sense people downtown want more foot traffic and the way you get more foot traffic is with retail,” said Frum. “I don’t mean just retail but restaurants too.”
The idea of a first-floor retail requirement was not on the agenda. After a presentation on another issue, Frum asked the trustees what they thought of the idea of a zoning requirement on the use of ground floor space.
The village has had a continuing discussion about downtown zoning since last summer. Frum said the Plan Commission will discuss it in detail in February. She asked the trustees if they wanted the commission to take a deep dive into the retail requirement and make a recommendation.
The village first discussed the idea approximately eight years ago, according to Frum. She said at that time the board but did not want to limit the market for property owners during the recession.
“I wondering if we want to have the Plan Commission look at that just for downtown at this point and come back with a recommendation,” said Frum. “Retail meaning anything that sells something. It has to do with making the downtown more walkable.”
Trustee A.C. Buehler said there should be a discussion of whether the same requirements will apply to the front of a building as the back. Frum said she wants to know what other nearby communities do and the impact such a requirement makes.
Trustee Kathryn Ciesla also said it is important to know what other towns do. She said the idea Frum posed was a case of first impression for her.
“I question the wisdom of preventing property owners in the downtown from renting to who they want,” said Ciesla.
After the Plan Commission discusses downtown zoning in February, Frum said there will be a joint meeting of the board and the commission to learn of the commission’s findings. There will be a thorough report about neighboring requirements and potential impact then.
Though Frum did not say in the meeting more retail and restaurant business generates additional sales tax for the village, she said increased business and tax revenue “go hand in hand.”
“If you get more business you sell more,” said Frum. “If you sell more there is more (tax) revenue but that is not the primary driving force of the idea.”