South Suburbs for Greenspace (SSG) held a rally ahead of Homewood’s zoning code workshop on July 22. The group says it wants more resident input on an ongoing zoning code update measures put in place to ensure more environmentally-sound decisions are made in the future.
“We’re trying to make sure the rewrite is a benefit to the community and not something that works against it,” SSG’s Liz Varmecky said. “The village has a lot of power and we want them to use that power to do good things.”
Homewood is updating its zoning code for the first time since 2002. The town also recently updated its municipal code. Urban planning firm Houseal Lavigne and the village’s planning and zoning commission held a public workshop Thursday to introduce the project and solicit feedback.
SSG rallied in front of village hall before the meeting. About two dozen residents held signs that read “Don’t Zone us Out” and “Green Up Our Code.” They played music over loudspeakers and had balloons for kids. Some residents driving by on Dixie Highway honked car horns and yelled in support.
“We are working on being productive in the things we are doing. The village is willing to work with us when the community is behind us. We can rally the community, still, I think,” Varmecky said. “Hopefully this rally shows that. We only get so much say in this process and we need to make sure that our voices are heard.”
SSG connects the zoning code update to the contentious Calumet Country Club issue that sparked the group's formation earlier this year.
Arizona developer Diversified Partners purchased the golf course in 2018. CEO Walt Brown Jr. said the company tried to find a tenant for several uses before settling on a warehouse and distribution center. The land is near the Governors Park neighborhood. Homewood trustees approved a settlement agreement with the developer in order to retain some control of the property through zoning.
SSG organized, protested and attended meetings in an effort to stop the development and the settlement agreement. Rezoning the area from open space to light industrial was part of that agreement. The village board voted against rezoning the property in March and Diversified Partners successfully sued to have the land disconnected from the village in April.
“Maybe there’ll be changes (in the zoning update) that make it easier for industry to come to town whereas we’d like to see this be a zoning code update that actually deals with the realities of global warming,” Varmecky said.
SSG called for the village to establish green and environmental justice commissions. Flossmoor has a green commission “charged to examine and where appropriate recommend locally feasible, Flossmoor-specific programs for village resident education and participation on activities and practices that promote environmental awareness and behavior by residents in an effort to promote an environmentally conscientious community at the household level.”
“We have nothing along those lines here,” Varmecky said. “We have nothing in the village promoting green policies or green initiatives.”
Preserving open space and sustainable design measures were some of the topics discussed at the workshop, introduced by Houseal Lavigne representatives.
Varmecky said SSG members have talked to city planners and researched code in other towns. Several attended the workshop after the rally and spoke during the public comment portion.
“We’re offering ideas of some things that are very common sense. Nobody wants to live across the street from industry. That’s just common sense,” she said. “Some of this, you don’t have to be an expert.”