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Shorewood rejects turning house into parking lot

Anaba owner says lack of parking drives customers away

Dec. 18, 2012

Shorewood - The gain of nine parking spaces is not worth the loss of a residential home to Shorewood officials.

The Village Board on Monday unanimously voted to deny a request from owner Deborah Kern to rezone a property at 3940 N. Frederick Ave. from residential to business use - a decision met with applause from those who attended the public hearing on the issue.

Kern, who also owns the nearby Garden Room and Anaba Tea Room, 2107 E. Capitol Drive, was proposing to demolish the home at 3940 N. Frederick Ave., in order to create a customer parking lot including nine spaces and a green design.

In a presentation to the Village Board, Kern stressed the fact that the majority of her customers drive to visit her business, and half of those customers find parking to be a challenge.

"Parking professionals say we are short between 170 to 50 parking spots. Those are significant numbers that cripple business growth or drive businesses away," Kern said.

"This lot is critical for my business to stay and survive," she added.

Neighbors object to lot

Many of the residents who packed the Village Center for the public hearing, however, had a different perspective.

"I think people move into a house with the reasonable expectation that if they have neighbors when they move in, they're not going to, five or six years later, end up with a parking lot as their next door neighbor instead," said Michelle Milstein, who lives directly next door at 3936 N. Frederick Ave.

Milstein and her husband, Nick Jones, noted the amount of open parking spaces they have observed in the area and the fact that recent parking counts by the village have confirmed the availability of parking.

"Her business thrives because of the location," Jones said. "She's not thriving in spite of not having a little parking lot."

According to a memo from Planning and Zoning Administrator Ericka Lang, the village conducted parking counts beginning last month along Capitol Drive from Murray to Farwell avenues, the 3900 block of Farwell, Maryland, Frederick and Murray avenues, and in the Village Hall and Atwater Elementary west lots.

Counts were taken over a period of two weeks at 12:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, overall revealing that the village's parking lot was less than 50 percent full after 5 p.m. on both weekdays and Saturday, with the highest demand for parking seen in the 2100 and 2200 blocks of Capitol Drive.

Setting a bad precedent

Other neighbors listed concerns related to safety and security, privacy, noise disruptions and declining property values.

If the Village Board were to approve this rezoning request, it would be setting a precedent to grant similar requests for other businesses in the future, said Suzanne Witas, who resides at 3928 N. Frederick Ave., noting the board's 2006 decision to allow Katz Properties to construct a parking lot at the property just north of the one Kern was proposing to rezone.

"I believe that if we do this, we will do it again and again and again, and it will impact the quality of life here in Shorewood," resident Beth Gregg later echoed.

Nearly two dozen voiced their opinions on the issue, including several renters who indicated a desire for the village to create more parking. Many in opposition to the rezoning still expressed support for the Garden Room, and others who spoke sided completely with Kern's position.

"I think we just need to be cognizant of the fact that if we aren't friendly to local businesses, that if we don't allow for the possibility for customers to come and go, we may lose those local businesses," India McCanse said.

Village trustees sought to strike a balance between the needs of area business owners and the residential neighborhood.

"If the rules are set and now we're going to change them at sort of the detriment to one side, there's got to be a really, really good reason to do that," Trustee Jeff Hanewall said. "And there are reasons to do it but I don't know if they rise … to the point where we should say, let's raze a home for a parking lot."

Trustee Ellen Eckman said that the village has taken steps recently to free up additional parking spaces.

The village just moved parking from the east side to the west side of Frederick Avenue to create six more parking spaces, Eckman said, in addition to creating six more spaces in the village's municipal lot and approving a memorandum of understanding with the Shorewood School District to allocate 12 spaces on the south side of the Atwater Elementary lot for public use during evening hours.

"I think that should help this particular business, as well as other businesses in the community," Eckman said.

AT A GLANCE

The timeline of the request to rezone the property at 3940 N. Frederick Ave. and its review has been as follows:

July 12 - zoning petition application submitted

July 24 - zoning change request first reviewed by Plan Commission

Aug. 3 - Community Development Authority reviewed and reached consensus in support of the zoning change request

August-September - Signatures from neighboring property owners in protest to the zoning amendment request collected and notarized

Oct. 23 - Plan Commission unanimously denied the request, following a public hearing

Dec. 17 - Village Board unanimously denied the request, following a public hearing

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