The City Council initiated a discussion on May 27 to provide a more in-depth look at the proposal. The first presentation gave an overview of the proposal and the Plan Commission's recommendation to City Council. The second presentation on July 14th went into more detail about the reasons behind the Zoning Map changes and new development regulations.
Upcoming presentations will focus on specific changes, such as residential density, building height, parking, urban design, connectivity, and planned development review triggers.
How were the proposed zoning code amendments developed?
The zoning changes proposed are the result of a multi-year planning effort which began in 2009.The process included public participation in a community-wide visioning process, community opinion surveys, an open house and a series of facilitated, issue-based, roundtable discussions about zoning and urban design. From this process, the City Council and the Downtown Property Owners’
Association retained a consulting team led by the Lakota Group of Chicago to conduct a Land use, Zoning and Urban Design analysis of the Central District. Following approximately one year of work, the Central District Land Use and Urban Design Study was developed and released to the public. This study forms the basis for the zoning text and map amendments before the City Council for consideration. Central District Land Use and Urban Design Study
Has the public had an opportunity to review and comment on the changes proposed?
Yes, prior to the Plan Commission’s initial hearing, the Planning Division provided notice to the public by posting signs throughout the Central District, publishing legal notice in the Lake County News Sun, mailing the notice to approximately 1,000 property owners, and emailing more than 300 people. In addition, a brief piece encouraging the public to participate in the Plan Commission’s hearing process was included in the Dec. 2013 edition of the Highlander.
On October 15, 2013 the Plan Commission opened the first of four (4) public hearing sessions on the matter and considered written and oral testimony from residents and property owners. Planning Division staff also met with property owners on November 26, 2014 and January 14, 2014 regarding various areas within and proximate to the Central District.
On May 6th the Plan Commission voted unanimously (6-0) to recommend affirmative findings of fact to the City Council for its consideration regarding the proposed text and map amendments, as modified by the Commission.
Why change the zoning for the Central District area?
Very little development has occurred in downtown since 1999 when Renaissance Place was developed. The changes proposed will help encourage residential/mixed-use development. After extensive review and public input the planning process for the Central District identified a number of zoning code related impediments to achieving the desired vision for the central district including the following:
- Permitted residential densities are too low (15 dwelling units per acre in the
B4 and B5 Zoning Districts)
- Permitted building height is too low to accommodate desired density
- Off-street parking requirements are too high
- Formal review requirements that make mixed-use development more difficult
- A lack of urban design controls to achieve the desired form.
These impediments are addressed in the proposed zoning map and text amendments.
What will this proposal do if adopted?
The proposed changes will encourage residential development at a higher density in the Central District, increasing the population living downtown which will help support local businesses and the City’s economic development in general.
What are the basics of the zoning proposal?
The proposed zoning map and text amendments primarily apply to areas in Highland Park zoned RO - Residential Office, B4 - Service Commercial and B5 -Central Business District. The proposed zoning map amendments establish three distinct B4 zoning sub-categories (B4-4; B4-5; and B4-6) that will allow greater density and height in select locations (see proposed Zoning Map), and amend
the zoning along the west side of Green Bay Road from RM1 (15 units/acre) to RM2 (30units/acre). No zoning map amendments are proposed for the B5 district, however, the proposed text amendments, among other things, increase the allowable density and building height in that district. The zoning text amendments will:
- Increase permitted residential density in the B4 and B5 districts;
- Increase permitted building height in RO, B4 and B5 districts;
- Reduce the number of required off-street parking for developments in the RO, B4 and B5 districts and institute site and building design standards on future development in these districts.
- Provide greater land use rights to property owners by increasing the
number of stories and height permitted by-right from 3 stories and 40’ to 4 stories and 51’ provided that the development meets the proposed urban design standards all other requirements of the Zoning Code.
The purpose of the proposed zoning text and map amendments is to provide zoning that will allow for more residential and mixed-use developments in the Central District of Highland Park.
Does this zoning proposal call for significant increases in residential density?
Yes, it proposes raising the residential density from 15 dwelling units per acre to 50-81 units per acre in the Central District area to encourage residential development.
What is the highest residential density the City currently allows?
The City’s RO zoning district, adopted in 1978, allows 50 units per acre. Properties in this zone are found within the central district adjacent to the B5 zoning district.
How will this affect downtown parking?
The zoning proposal reduces the amount of required on-site parking for developments in the RO, B4 and B5 districts. Developers will still be required to provide off-street parking, but less than currently required. The proposed zoning amendments reduce parking requirements to encourage compact, pedestrian friendly development and recognize the public transportation and parking options available to those that live downtown. The Zoning Code sets the minimum parking requirements; it does not prevent property owners from providing more parking than is required should they need to.
These recommendations recognize that many trips can be accomplished by walking or biking to downtown; or, by parking once and conducting business on foot thereafter. Moreover, many areas of the central district have available parking: on-street, in surface parking lots, or in underground public parking lots.
Do the proposed zoning map or text amendments significantly expand the areas with the potential for retail development in the central district?
Not significantly. With the exception of one small area, permitted land uses are not proposed to change. Under the current zoning (B4 & B5), retail uses are allowed; under the proposed zoning (B4-4, B4-5, B5-6 & B5), the same retail land uses will continue to be allowed.
The one area proposed to be rezoned to allow retail land uses is a small area that is presently zoned RO – Residential Office District. It is proposed to be rezoned to B4-5 and is located along the south side of Laurel Avenue from Second Street to First Street; and, along First Street from Laurel Avenue south to the Sheridan Square condominium building at 1660 First Street. In this area,
some additional retail development could occur where it presently is not permitted. It is important to note that there are several retail/commercial uses already located in this area.
How long will it take to build out these plans?
Development that may occur under the proposed zoning will likely take many years to build-out. The existing RO zoning district (along south side of Laurel Ave. and First St., south of Laurel Ave.), which allows 50 units per acre, was established in 1978, but did not really begin to see development until 10 years later. Moreover, to this day it has not been fully developed.
What about the traffic and infrastructure demands of new development?
Traffic and infrastructure upgrades will be addressed incrementally as part of the development process. In addition, as part of its annual capital improvement program the City will budget for infrastructure improvements in this district.