Local News

Trustees OK revised zoning code for Homewood, laud ‘unprecedented’ community input

Two-flats can be rebuilt. Tattoo studios and accessory dwellings are OK. Short-term rentals policy is not yet settled.

Those are some of the results of an 18-month process to completely revise the Homewood zoning code and map. Trustees approved the new version Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The zoning ordinance last underwent a comprehensive revision in 2002. The project’s goal was to modernize the code by simplifying outdated procedures, improve usability, update terms and ensure compliance with all pertinent laws.

Homewood zoning map approved Jan. 10, 2023.
Click to enlarge.

The project was launched in May 2021 when the board approved a contract with Houseal Lavigne as the consultant to help guide the process. Early on, village staff provided more than a dozen topics that needed attention based on challenges staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission were facing. 

For example, Village Planner Valerie Berstene said the use table and the parking table didn’t match up precisely after various amendments over the years got them out of synch. That complicated things when residents or businesses made requests.

Reconciling inconsistencies like that was one of the tasks completed during the revision process.

Residents had a chance to get involved early. Houseal Lavigne provided two online tools, an interactive map and a survey, that allowed residents to share their priorities, and that information helped inform the changes crafted by the staff, commission and consultant.

The timing had some influence, too. The project began two months after Homewood agreed to disconnect Calumet Country Club from the village after village officials declined to grant zoning changes requested by Diversified Partners, an Arizona firm that had hoped to convert the golf course into an industrial warehousing facility. 

Jackie Wells, senior planner with Houseal Lavigne, said participation from Homewood residents was good as the project got under way, with more than 100 residents completing the online map suggestions and more than 150 providing comments prior to the first public meeting in July 2021. 

“We are very accustomed to doing these types of projects and no one showing up to meetings, no one answering surveys,” she said. “It was a good number, especially for this kind of project. Zoning’s not sexy. It’s not something that really gets people excited. I take it as a good sign if people are really engaged in the beginning.”

The top issues on people’s minds were protecting trees and greenspace and promoting environmental sustainability, she said. 

Informational posters are on display during an open house on Oct. 27, 2022, to give residents a chance to look at the nearly completed zoning code revision. The event was one of seven public meetings during the 18-month code revision project. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
Informational posters are on display during an open house on Oct. 27, 2022, to give residents a chance to look at the nearly completed zoning code revision. The event was one of seven public meetings during the 18-month code revision project. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

David Janocha, one of the founders of South Suburbs for Greenspace, said at a project open house in October 2022 that those issues prompted him to get involved. He was relieved to see that no moves were made to encourage new industrial developments in the village that might reduce greenspace.

As the months passed and interested ebbed, he continued to attend meetings, even sitting through the long discussions over several meetings about short-term rental policy. Overall, Janocha said he appreciated the process the village used to get the task done.

“I thought it was a really good process,” he said, noting that the commission made him feel welcome. “They included me in the conversation. There was actual back and forth.”

Among the signicant changes in the zoning map was a shift in business zones, according to Economic and Community Development Director Angela Mesaros.

The B-1 downtown core business district zone was made smaller and is now designed to focus on  restaurant and retail uses, she said. Downtown areas outside the core zone are now B2, downtown transition zone. Outlying business districts like Kedzie Avenue, Northgate and Southgate are now in the B3 zone. 

There were no changes made that would significantly affect population density in residential areas. One of the goals of the commission was to protect the village’s emphasis on single-family housing. 

One change that could have a slight impact was a new rule that allows two- and three-flat buildings in residential zones. In the code of the past two decades, those buildings were not allowed, so if an existing structure was damaged it couldn’t be rebuilt, according to Village Planner Valerie Berstene. 

Although new flats are still not allowed, any existing structure can now be replaced if necessary.

Accessory dwelling unit policy is another change in the new code. Berstene said the practice of adding separate living quarters in houses or garages or even as separate structures became popular after World War II but have been illegal in many communities in recent years. They are making a comeback.

In Homewood, accessory units can be attached or internal to the main home. They  can be detached, but only if the home does not have an attached garage. Berstene said the limit on the number of detached structures is in place to protect against adding too much impermeable surface area on lots, which can increase flooding risk.

Those are only a few of the many code adjustments made over the course of the project.

The topic of short-term rentals was discussed extensively in commission workshops but was not included in the final draft. The commission requested direction from the village board and the village attorney before continuing work on that topic, Mesaros said. 

She offered thanks to the many people, including residents, commission members, village staff and trustees who contributed to the project.

Trustee Jay Heiferman, who was a member of the project team, echoed her comments and expressed awe at the breadth and depth of the review process. 

“Comprehensive is an understatement,” he said, referring to the meticulous examination of the new code by the team. 

He and Mesaros gave special thanks to Berstene, who was hired in the middle of the project and had to get up to speed and provide leadership starting on her first day with the village.

Heiferman called the level of community involvement “unprecedented.”

“There were multiple opportunities for people to jump in and make their ideas known,” he said. “A lot of community engagement makes this a better document.”

Wells agreed that residents seemed to recognize the importance of the project.

“Zoning is really a tool for implementing policy,” Wells said. “It’s more on people’s mind that we need to get our zoning right to address some of the issues that communities are facing like housing affordability, sustainability and preserving trees. Zoning in a strong tool for making those things happen.”

The new code, map and supporting documents are available on the village website at bit.ly/zoningrevision.

News by email

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Free weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Most read stories this week