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Petition in hand, Flossmoor residents want truck ban on chopping block

A group of Flossmoor residents determined to overturn the village’s longtime pickup truck ordinance will bring their argument — and a petition — to the village board meeting on Monday.
Flossmoor resident Luke Lambert started the petition on Facebook, not expecting it to get much traction. Quickly, however, he saw like-minded residents signing on, saying they too think the ordinance is outdated and exclusionary.
“I was very surprised by the reaction. We’re at about 250 signatures and that hasn’t taken much work,” Lambert said. “I watched the community come together and say, ‘Times are changing, get over it.’”
Enacted in the 1980s, Flossmoor’s pickup truck ordinance states that commercial vehicles and “personal use trucks bearing an A or B state license plate” may only be parked within an enclosed garage, except for the immediate loading or unloading of trucks, according to the village website.
The zoning rule, over the years, has been an object of scorn by some residents and outsiders, many of whom view it as sending an implicit message that Flossmoor isn’t welcoming of certain types of people. Originally, trucks were completely disallowed, even within an enclosed garage.
In the late 1980s, a Flossmoor resident filed a legal challenge of the truck ban. The case made it up to the Illinois Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the ordinance. As the legal battle proceeded, the Flossmoor Village Board voted to allow trucks that are parked inside garages.
Garages are part of the problem, said Vicki Stevenson. The 17-year Flossmoor resident is also a realtor who sells exclusively in her home village and neighboring Homewood. She has an intimate knowledge of the homes in Flossmoor, many of which are nearly a century old. Many garages in town aren’t large enough to accommodate modern pickup trucks.
Stevenson has firsthand experience of talking to clients who decide against buying a home in Flossmoor after they hear about the truck regulation. Some have trucks, but others dislike the driveway ban on solely ethical grounds.
“I’ve had buyers tell me that they will not buy in Flossmoor because of it,” Stevenson said. “There’s a perception that has been perpetuated that Flossmoor is elitist. That’s not the Flossmoor I know and it’s certainly not good for marketing.”
Lambert didn’t know about the ban when he moved to Flossmoor from Chicago in 2013. He had a fully restored 1966 F-100 truck that he eventually had to sell. 
“My garage was built in 1924 and I couldn’t fit the truck in there,” Lambert said. “This is my first foray into the suburbs and I love it. I love the town. I think the diversity is far better than it’s ever been. If everything else is changing, why not this, too?”
The very notion that motivates the driveway ban is flawed, Lambert said. He said the government should not be the arbiter of what is aesthetically pleasing.
“We shouldn’t have a community government in any way, shape or form deeming something attractive or unattractive, and making a rule because of attractiveness. That’s a scary prospect,” Lambert said. “There are plenty of ugly things in our community that I don’t agree with. But it’s not mine, I don’t own it. I don’t have anything to say about it.”
Stevenson said she wants to be sensitive to long-term residents who are worried about the potential outcomes of rescinding the ordinance. However, she said other towns without such bans don’t have a “truck problem.” Also, there are separate laws governing the parking of recreational vehicles and outlawing things such as having a car up on blocks.
Flossmoor needs every marketing advantage it can get in a time when suburbs are vying for new residents, Stevenson said, and she wants to help older residents understand that.
“I’m not writing them off. I think they’re not looking at the big picture,” she said. “The fact is, we’re not selling houses to other 70-year-olds. We’re trying to attract people from the city (of Chicago) and University of Chicago. They have to understand that times are changing and we want to be as attractive to those buyers as possible.”
Along with a group of residents, Lambert and Stevenson will present their argument before the village’s trustees on Monday. They don’t want the ordinance changed — they want it gone, stricken completely. Though the Facebook petition is non-binding, Lambert said he hopes it will send a message to the trustees that they need to listen to Flossmoor residents. 
Lambert said he personally asked Mayor Paul Braun to sign the petition, but he declined.
Lambert said he doesn’t want to “wax poetic” about the issue but plans to state the case and ask trustees to get on the bandwagon. He wants them to instruct the village zoning board to reconsider the ordinance.
“I don’t want them to change the ordinance, I want it gone. It’s ludicrous,” Lambert said.  “Last time I checked, it’s a government of representatives. I won’t feel represented at all if I leave there without one person saying they agree with me.”
Stevenson said because of the past negative media attention the ban has received, striking it from the village books could garner positive media coverage and reinvigorate interest in Flossmoor. 
“It’s newsworthy. To do something like this gives us a lot of opportunity for free marketing,” she said. “It’s an excellent time to have something like this happen.”
The board meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Village Hall, 2800 Flossmoor Road. 

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