A Palos Park homebuilder’s plan to subdivide a lot in Oak Lawn’s District 2 and build two larger homes is pitting the District’s three term Trustee, Alex Olejniczak, against the Village Manager, Larry Deetjen, in a showdown that will ultimately be decided by Olejniczak and his fellow Village Trustees.
The Village’s Planning and Development Commission approved the request by Magnum Builders to reduce the lot sizes from the required 45 feet frontage to 44.39 feet but the final approval rests with the Village Board. The Planning and Development Commission voted six to three to approve the request by MaryAnn Murnin, the Co-owner of Magnum Builders after questioning Murnin and hearing testimony from Olejniczak and Lorraine Shimkus, a neighbor, in opposition to the plan.
Shimkus told the Planning and Development Board that the residents in the area had stopped plans to subdivide the lot in the past. She asked the board to enforce the existing code and preserve green space by denying the petition. Shimkus, a forty year resident of the area, also cited flooding concerns and privacy concerns as additional reasons to oppose the subdivision. She said that with the homes being closer to each other, she and other neighbors will have to close their blinds on the side of the house, lose natural light and be forced to see a brick wall.
Shimkus said that rainfall has been worse lately and that although she never experienced flood issues, her yard floods with heavy rains now. The addition of two homes, according to Shimkus, will provide less open space to absorb the rainfall. She appeared with a petition signed by most of her neighbors, although none of the neighbors appeared at the hearing.
Several Commissioners spoke on the issue and asked questions of both Shimkus and the builder. Commissioner Bill Lundy said that he has lived in Oak Lawn for several years and stated there is no proof that the proposed subdivision would increase flooding. Commissioner William Kushnerik said that two houses rather than one large home would provide more drainage. Commissioner Sean Schrader asked the builder if she would divert the water into rain barrels, which was then added into the motion to approve the subdivision.
The Commission Chairman John Eggert asked the builder to commit to not asking for additional variances beyond the lot width issue and guarantee that there would be five foot side yards. The builder did commit to the request although it wasn’t in the motion.
Steve Radice, the Village’s Economic Director, spoke in support of the subdivision, saying that he is trying to “capture every vacant home in Oak Lawn” and find developers willing to build newer homes. Radice, a former member of the Planning and Economic Development Commission, said that when he served on the commission, two to three feet variances were granted while this request is only for 7 inches. Commissioner Schrader said that everyone wants something to be done with the house and it will be developed. Shimkus agreed that the existing home should be torn down but wants it replaced with only one home. She also offered to buy the second lot and allow the builder to build one large home on the other lot.
Olejniczak spoke in opposition to the subdivision although he admitted that he had “fought” for builders to get variances granted on other properties. He said that the neighborhood doesn’t want the variance and that it isn’t appropriate for the area. In the end, only three of the nine commissioners agreed with Olejniczak. Murnin said that Magnum Builders is hoping to build two story homes on the properties. Radice said it is his hope that more builders will come into the village and knock down some of the houses and build newer homes.