ELMHURST – A sweeping majority of Elmhurst aldermen decided in favor of Elmhurst Extended Care Center's desire to expand onto Fremont Avenue with a 12-2 vote approving an ordinance that brought a land use case that began in 2016 to a close at the April 2 Elmhurst City Council meeting.
The care center at 200 E. Lake St. is now free to commence its expansion onto 193 and 197 E. Fremont Ave.
Two Fremont Avenue neighbors, two aldermen and Citizen Advocacy Center lawyer Ben Silver reiterated their opposition to the center's plans in the waning minutes before the vote.
Residents John "Jay" McNichols and Eileen Oeser spoke during public comment in a much-reduced public showing of disapproval compared to the 40 minutes of public comment that had taken place at the March 19 City Council meeting, where the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee's report was passed in a 12-2 vote, with aldermen Michael Bram and alderwoman Dannee Polomsky voting against it.
Polomsky argued at the April 2 meeting that she believes the project does not meet two of the Elmhurst Zoning Ordinance standards: that the project will not be "injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity for the purposes already permitted, nor substantially diminish and impair property values within the neighborhood" and that "the establishment of the conditional use will not impede the normal or ordinary development and improvement of the surrounding property for uses permitted in the district."
The Zoning and Planning Commission, which presents findings and recommendations on cases to the city's Development, Planning and Zoning Committee, had tendered a report on Jan. 22 with a split 4-4 vote recommending denial of the application.
However, alderwoman Noel Talluto, who sits on the committee, said at the March 19 City Council meeting that she saw in the transcripts of the commission meetings that there was "the lack of consensus" at each standard level.
The applicant also had responded to some 13 requests the neighbors made that were reviewed at a March 12 committee meeting.
The applicant agreed to many of the requests, including the request to complete snow removal in case of such weather and to refrain from constructing wooden fencing on the Fremont Avenue portion of the property, according to the March 15 committee report submitted to the City Council.
Alderman Bob Dunn, who had not been at the March 19 meeting where the report was passed 12-2, said he was opposed to the care center's initial concept because he thought those ideas would be too invasive to the neighbors, but he has changed his mind based on the final plans, which have addressed some of the neighbors' concerns.
"Bottom line is at first I thought this was really no chance of moving forward, but with the many changes to it, I will support it at this time," Dunn said.
So at the end of the nearly two-year legal battle, after some of the neighbors' concerns had been addressed, it was just Bram and Polomsky who voted against the ordinance.
Love Dave, administrator and owner of the care center, said March 19 after the vote on the report that the center looks forward to working with the city and neighbors, and they are excited for the nursing home residents to have more spacious accommodations.
"It's so crowded for them," he said, noting residents are currently living three or four to a room at the facility.