Wilmette, News

Wilmette adds to tree protections, eases affordable housing tax burden and issues first Wayfair construction permit

Nearly a year after the Wilmette Village Board approved an ordinance that boosted tree protections, trustees granted the first approval Tuesday to two amendments aimed at improving those already-existing measures.

The amendments — which trustees passed unanimously as part of their consent agenda during a breezy, 20-minute meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14 — both relate to protecting trees during construction works.

The first amendment adds a provision to the village’s existing requirement that a fence must surround a parkway during construction. If the amendment passes, it would require “the entire parkway be fenced and maintained for the period of the construction whether trees are present or not,” according to a memo from Village Manager Mike Braiman and Village forester/preservation officer Joe Hansen.

The second amendment is proposed because, according to the memo, “much of the damage that occurs to trees is to the root system as a result of soil compaction … due to excavating” and “many types of construction projects require the excavation of soil to a depth greater than 10 (inches).”

The amendment would “allow more flexibility in requesting documents where there is potential for substantial damage” during the construction process.

When passed in March 2022, the new tree ordinance had two goals: to protect the village’s tree canopy by minimizing the number of unnecessary tree removals and to ensure that sufficient replacement trees are planted.

In the memo, Village staff indicated that the ordinance has saved 61 trees because applications were withdrawn. Additionally, the village credits the ordinance for seven trees in consideration for preservation; 36 new trees being planted; and more than $28,000 of payments in lieu of tree plantings.

Trustees are expected to formally consider the amendments at the village board’s Feb. 28 meeting, when they will be on the agenda for final approval.

Affordable housing grant amendment approved

Trustees also approved an amendment that will provide rebates to the nonprofit that is assisting with Wilmette’s affordable housing program.

Affordable housing plans began to take shape in October 2021 after Green Bay Wilmette, an offshoot of Optima Inc., provided $1.6 million to the village in order to establish affordable housing in the village.

That transaction was one of a number of stipulations that village officials included in the conditional approval of a seven-story, mixed-use building at 1210 Central Ave., which will feature 100 residential units.

Since that time, Community Partners for Affordable Housing, the Libertyville-based nonprofit tasked with finding and securing affordable housing, has acquired three single-family homes, one two-unit apartment building and one three-flat rental property for conversion into affordable housing.

Braiman wrote in his memo that, at the request of Trustee Gina Kennedy, staff looked into any potential rebates that could be provided to homeowners seeking to purchase or rent the properties.

Through research and discussions, Braiman said “while the Village does not have the ability to waive the transfer tax … the Village can rebate to CPAH the tax paid by amending the grant agreement.”

He added that the rebate wouldn’t apply to the initial purchase of the property but rather the initial transfer from the nonprofit to any eligible participant, “and subsequent resales between the owner and a ‘new’ low- or moderate-income buyer.”

CPAH initially planned to utilize 14 properties (a mix of private homes, townhomes and condominiums) as part of their affordable housing program but has indicated that they may be able to acquire a 15th property.

Wayfair plans move forward

Braiman also provided trustees with an update on Wayfair, which has announced plans to move into the former Carson Pirie Scott location at Edens Plaza.

He said the first of three construction permits has been issued, which addresses exterior work to the building.

“So, you’ll see a lot of activity at Edens Plaza in the coming months,” he said.

Future permits the village expects to issue include demolition permits for four storefronts (Starbucks and Men’s Wearhouse and formerly GNC and H. Marion Framing Studio) on the eastern side of the building and a permit for interior work.

“We’re really excited to see this project moving forward,” Braiman said, “and when we have a better handle on their timeline for their store opening, we’ll be sure to let the community know.”

Wayfair first announced their plans to build their first brick-and-mortar store in late 2021.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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