A divided Wilmette Plan Commission has recommended that the village approve a zoning request from hotel developer White Lodging, which hopes to build a six-story residential hotel for Marriott Corporation on the west side of Wilmette.
The 4-3 vote came after commissioners heard more than a dozen potential hotel neighbors, most of them from nearby Lockerbie Lane, rail against the project.
The recommendation now goes to the Wilmette Village Board for a final decision, probably at its Sept. 27 meeting.
Four commissioners — Richard DeLeo, Maria Choca Urban, Susan Friedman and Scott Goldstein — ultimately agreed that granting a planned unit development to White Lodging met zoning standards, despite a plethora of variation requests.
Urban said Friday that she believes the hotel project is an appropriate use for the property’s zoning. She noted that the project is supported by representatives of the existing office development adjoining the property. The hotel also will help diversify Wilmette’s economic base, she said.
“Although there were clearly many issues that need to be resolved with the community, I felt that they sounded resolvable,” Urban said. “In fact, with the vote I looked the applicant in the eye and strongly encouraged him to get together with the neighbors and address those issues.”
Three commissioners — Michael Bailey, Greg Kohn and commission chair Charmain Borys Later — weren’t convinced. They told White Lodging representatives they would like to see more information about the proposal before voting.
However, White Lodging development representative Matt Frankiewicz declined the option of holding off on the commission vote.
The Indiana based company, which in July announced plans to build the residence-style hotel at 3201 Old Glenview Road, sought approval of a planned unit development designation for its project. The 1.6 acres of land on which it wants to build is in Wilmette’s Office Research Zoning District.
The hotel it plans would be run as one of Marriott’s Residence Inn operations, with 130 studio, one- and two-bedroom suites aimed at long-term business travelers. It would have 118 parking spaces, 83 in its own lot and the rest leased in the lot of an adjoining office building.
The operation would not have regular restaurant or bar operations and would thus not attract the kind of non-patron business and traffic that regular hotels do. It would generate the full-time equivalent of between 20 and 25 jobs, Frankiewicz said.
The company sought variations on 18 of 24 zoning requirements, including several on rear-, side-yard and parking set backs, and building height.
White Lodging also wants Wilmette to grant it relief from rules on the amount of impervious surface coverage allowed — while 30 to 60 percent maximums are allowed by code, the company plans to cover between 75 and 95 percent of the property with impervious surface.
However, the project would provide underground storm water retention below its parking lot, project civil engineer Tom McCabe said, “because we are aware there are storm-water issues in this area.”
Developers also said their plans to extend existing storm and sanitary sewer lines onto their property — as well as to turn one, and possibly two, currently dead-ended sewers on Lockerbie and Old Glenview Road into connected loops — could improve water pressure and quality in the neighborhood.
Commission and audience questions about the case focused largely on four issues.
• Traffic: White Lodging traffic engineer Luay Aboona said hotel traffic won’t add to area congestion, but he admitted the one intersection where that might not hold true was at nearby Old Orchard Road and Lockwood Avenue. He said the intersection can’t be helped by adding lights, because Old Orchard has lighted intersections too close by; however, future improvements at the Edens Expressway’s Old Orchard off ramp to the south could help, he said.
• Frankiewicz insisted that the hotel had more than enough parking to handle customer and employee parking, but Later was doubtful, saying, “it seems as if (the parking space to room ratio) is appropriate for an urban setting with access to transit … but seems rather low to me for an area like this.” When she asked if White Lodging could lower the density of rooms it had planned, he said, “we think 130 is the minimum we can have.”
• The building’s proximity to homes on its west border. The developer acquiesced to a recommendation from village staff, moving the hotel further east on the property. The issue has prompted worried letters from residents, commissioners told Frankiewicz. But he and his team said the line of property between the hotel and the Lockerbie neighborhood is too thin to nurture any more buffering vegetation than the deciduous trees that already grow there. Adding buffering could interfere with White Lodging’s storm water detention, attorney Greg Dose said.
• Placement of hotel refuse containers; the commission’s final approval was conditional on White Lodging moving its refuse containers farther from the west border.
• Signs and building material quality: Goldstein said he thought the number — three — and size of signs planned for the hotel were excessive. The commission also wants White Lodging to consider using higher-quality building materials, such as masonry, in its building design.
A room full of residents who would be hotel neighbors attended Tuesday’s meeting, and many made it clear to the commission that they won’t welcome it. It will bring noise and congestion into their lives, and could bring undesirable elements in as well, some said.
“The number of variations they are asking for … the presentation itself, makes it so obvious that the building doesn’t fit the space,” Lockerbie resident Peter Hawkinson said. “It just doesn’t fit in any direction.”
“The applicants say this project will have no impact on the adjoining residential area. That’s a Tooth Fairy argument,” Lockerbie resident Larry Rogers said.
Rogers and neighbor Craig Petitte also noted the large number of variations that White Lodging seeks, and Rogers insisted the company’s plan fails to meet the standards of Wilmette’s Office Research zoning designation.