Homewood zoning burkestevenson_210722_5_web
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Homewood moves toward updating zoning code after 19 years

A public workshop Thursday was one of the first steps toward overhauling  the Homewood zoning code. It hasn’t been updated in nearly 20 years.

Representatives from urban planning firm Houseal Lavigne spoke to the village’s planning and zoning commission and residents about the structure and timetable of the update. The project is expected to be finished in November 2022.

Consulting firm Houseal Lavigne’s Jackie Wells presents information on the zoning code revision project at a workshop Thursday in village hall. (Andrew Burke-Stevenson/H-F Chronicle)

Houseal Lavigne’s Jackie Wells presented eight key topics for review, with recommendations for each. 

The most discussed topic was preserving open space and sustainable design regulations. Homewood sought feedback from residents through its official website prior to the meeting. Wells said over 150 comments were submitted and much of them were aimed at environmental subjects.

“The issue is that the village is really limited in its ability to restrict the development of privately-owned land so we would like to look at innovative approaches to address the village’s environmental concerns,” she said. 

There are no current regulations in Homewood’s zoning code for things like rain gardens, native plant species, tree preservation or impervious surfaces that can lead to flooding. 

The village’s comprehensive plan, which isn’t binding, does suggest the town work with the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District to acquire and maintain open land. 

Members of the Homewood Planning and Zoning Commission listen to discussion Thursday during a workshop on the village’s zoning code revision project. (Andrew Burke-Stevenson / H-F Chronicle)

The meeting was attended by several members of the South Suburbs for Greenspace, which held a rally before the meeting. 

“This (zoning code) rewrite could allow our village to make real steps toward becoming a model of sustainability and green initiatives, not just in the Southland but across the country,” SSG’s Liz Varmecky said. “Global warming and climate change are happening with huge economic loss for governments at all levels.”

Short-term rentals, like AirBnB and VRBO, were also discussed. There is nothing written in current code related to these types of rentals, and the village is concerned that some homes are being used as “party houses” and not being maintained. 

Some states and municipalities have passed laws requiring permits and fees for short-term rentals, as well as establishing minimum and maximum timetables for stays. In Wisconsin, a law passed in 2017 limits rentals to between seven and 29 days. 

“Most people would not want to rent out their homes for big parties if that’s where they live primarily so that’s one way to curb that behavior and keep neighborhoods more focused on residents,” Wells said. 

She also reviewed major topics: updates to code regarding event spaces and multi-use facilities, subletting of office spaces, distinguishing between a permit-require home-based business and a person working from home, and regulating multi-family homes and dwellings. The village also seeks to limit personal service and medical use permits, like salons and barbershops. Commissioner Dexter Johnson said there are over 60 salons in the village.

SSG called for more public participation in the zoning update. 

This meeting was the first of two public workshops. The next will be in January. Until then, a questionnaire and interactive map are available on the village website to encourage resident input. 

Some of the residents said the questionnaire was too technical for lay people. Wells said it could be changed and asked them to leave notes on a printed version of the survey.

Wells also asked residents to leave their email addresses on a sign-up sheet to provide feedback while Houseal Lavigne does a “deep dive” into the village code over the next six months. Residents can also email the planning and zoning commission at [email protected] or leave written comments or questions in the dropbox at the village hall.

Houseal Lavigne expects to give the village a diagnostics report next month, review it with Homewood staff in September and then begin updating. 

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