Wilmette village trustees, faced last month with the choice between rejecting two different zoning requests, or rejecting advice to do just that, split the difference.
They agreed with a 17th Street couple that their garage construction plan was reasonable, and agreed to ignore a Zoning Board of Appeals recommendation to reject the plan – but only after the property owners agreed to shrink its size.
Then they convinced two Central Avenue homeowners to avoid a possible thumbs-down decision on their tree house by delaying that vote a month and looking at renovation options that might bring the structure more into compliance with village rules.
Both moves came during the board’s Aug. 23 meeting.
In the first case, the agreement by Greg and Bonnie Baumeyer, of 822 17th St., to shrink their proposed three-car garage slightly, helped win the vote for their project.
They had planned a 768 square-foot 32 by 24-foot building, larger than the 600 square feet allowed by code, and needed the board to give them a special use permit and to grant a size variance.
Greg Baumeyer argued that they had designed the project to minimize the amount of added impermeable surface. Wilmette’s zoning code would actually allow him to build a far larger structure and increase the impermeable structure far more, if he built something other than a detached garage.
Their property is opposite Howard Park, and has very limited street parking options, he said. His neighbors don’t object to the project either, he added.
When trustees asked whether their neighborhood ever flooded after rain storms, Baumeyer said the family’s back yard can temporarily retain some water, and that an adjacent alley sometimes retains water because of grading problems. Apart from that, he said the 17th Street and 16th Street neighborhoods don’t seem to have flood problems.
When the Baumeyers agreed to cut the size of their garage project to 32 by 22 feet, trustees unanimously approved their request.
In the second case, homeowners Anna Marie and Dan Close of 2000 Central Ave. were asking for the right to retain a tree house they had built — roughly 15 feet in height and built fewer than five feet from their property lot line. The couple, who invested about $3,300 in the tree house, said they had checked the zoning code to see if it included rules for tree houses, and had found nothing.
“We apologize for putting the board in this position. We did not intentionally try to circumvent any village codes,” Anna Marie Close said.
Board president Chris Canning pointed out that relevant zoning information is actually available on the Wilmette village website.
Trustees asked about the tree house’s positioning on the Close’s lot; several, including Trustee Alan Swanson, wondered why they did not minimize the amount of variance approval they needed by placing it 180 degrees to the side, to minimize its front yard impact. That would place the posts that help hold the edifice in place right in the middle of their side yard, Dan Close replied, making it a hazard to people like small running children.
Although Anna Marie Close and her husband were willing to stipulate that the tree house be taken down after their children are grown, 10 years hence, and that it be taken down if the property is sold, Canning told them it would still be a risk for them to ask for a board vote that night.
The case came to trustees with a negative Zoning Board vote, he pointed out. That would require a five-vote majority to overcome, and because Trustee Mike Basil could not attend the Aug. 23 meeting, it meant they would have to win approval from all but one trustee there.
Instead, Canning suggested they go back to their carpenter to talk with him about possible reconfiguration options for the tree house. Even if they reject each option, talking with the carpenter could help them delineate those reasons when they return later, he said.
They agreed, and the board postponed the case until its Sept. 27 meeting.