Northfield, News

Northfield trustees like idea of zoning changes to enable more restaurants, housing

Northfield trustees expressed an interest on Tuesday night in amending the Village Code regarding housing and restaurants, an idea introduced by interim Village Manager Tim Frenzer.

With the Village set to see work on two major projects — Happ Road and the Skokie Valley Trail — beginning soon, Frenzer said he wanted to gauge the board’s interest in possible zoning updates, with a goal of “adding vitality” to the Village Center.

One of Frenzer’s ideas was changing how restaurants are defined by the Village and easing the process for opening a restaurant in Northfield.

Currently, the Village Code defines a restaurant as what Frenzer described as “the classic definition of a restaurant,” which refers to a full-service restaurant. He added that restaurants are considered special uses in every zoning district.

“But what you find is that now, in order to attract restaurants and to compete to attract restaurants, it’s beneficial to come up with a more nuanced definition,” Frenzer said. “And when you look at all your peer communities around you, all of them have definitions of restaurants that run four or five layers deep that contemplate all different types of restaurants, and then try to come up with the ones that fit…in the zoning district that you have.”

He also suggested improving the special use process, as he said an extended one “can be a disincentive to investment.”

Another idea Frenzer had was to rezone some parts of the Village near downtown for residential development. Specifically, he mentioned the area south of Oak Street and north of Willow Road, which is within walking distance of the Village Center.

“And we know there’s some development interest in multifamily north of Willow, but right now there’s not a place to put it,” he said. “There’s nothing in the (office-research district) that would allow that to happen.”

Trustees signaled support for further researching the potential zoning changes, with several saying they liked making it easier for restaurants to come to the Village.

Trustee Tracey Mendrek asked that the process be “thoughtful” and not rushed.

“I think it’s a great idea, but I think we need to do all the right things and make sure our existing businesses are onboard and we have that dialogue with them,” she said.

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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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