Aldermen reject Reese Avenue house, major zoning relief


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st). Aldermen voted to reject the proposed development at 2626 Reese Ave.

Cassidy Wang, Reporter

At a Monday Planning and Development Committee meeting, aldermen voted to reject the proposed development at 2626 Reese Ave., which would have required a major zoning relief previously denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The ZBA determined the proposal did not meet all standards for major variation and “would result in a substantial adverse impact on the use, enjoyment or property values of adjoining properties,” according to city documents.

Property owner William James’ proposed home in the 7th Ward would require a 42.5 percent building lot coverage where a maximum of 30 percent is allowed, in addition to exceptions for 3-foot-wide side yard setbacks, according to city documents.

During public comment, residents expressed concerns that the development would impact property values, damage surrounding properties – including producing stormwater runoff and subsequent drainage issues – encroach on surrounding heritage trees and compromise the safety of those in the area.

James said he believed the ZBA was biased towards neighborhood pressures, emphasizing that he is legally able to build on the lot.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she was conflicted in deciding whether or not the city should approve the property. She said that when visiting the property, she noticed many other substandard lots in the neighborhood with similar setbacks. However, she said she recognizes neighbors’ concerns of potential damages, such as water runoff.

“I thought I knew what I was going to do when I came into the meeting but now I’m not sure,” Revelle said.

Ald. Thomas Suffredin (6th) voted no on the proposed house, saying it would be too big for the lot. Suffredin added that James was not considerate of the impact the house would have on neighbors.

“(James) used the colloquialism where he said, ‘This isn’t the house I would build but I could live with it,’” Suffredin said. “And he was saying, ‘I could live with it,’ in the colloquial sense. These people would have to live with it in the actual, real, ‘it’s on their block,’ sense.”

Revelle also said the city should consider building smaller, lower-cost houses on substandard lots, like in the case of the Reese Avenue property.

“Allowing buildings to go on to these substandard lots would be an important public policy,” Revelle said.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) questioned whether the committee would have accepted the proposal if variances were not involved, as well as what the city determines to be buildable on similar substandard lots.

“We are encouraging smaller, hopefully more affordable houses on smaller lots,” Fiske said. “That’s the direction we’ve been moving in.”

Although James’s request for a zoning variance was rejected by the committee, city staff said he can submit another application for consideration in the future.

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