By Dermot Connolly
The Oak Lawn Village Board recently denied a request by a local doctor to turn a vacant lot zoned for single-family residences into a parking lot for patients.
At its Nov. 10 meeting, the board unanimously upheld a 5-0 decision made by the Zoning and Planning Commission in August to deny the request to rezone the vacant residential lot at 9512 S. Moody Ave.
Dr. Mohammad Al-Khudari had purchased the 7,465 square-foot site in hopes of turning it into an additional parking lot with 18 spaces for staff and patients from his ophthalmology practice, Family Eye Physicians, at 6201 W. 95 th St.
The issue was voted on after the trustees heard from seven nearby residents, including four from the same family, who said having the parking lot so close to their homes would be detrimental to their privacy and property values.
Akram Abedelal, a spokesman for the doctor, said landscaping and a masonry wall at least five feet high would separate the lot and houses behind or beside it, but residents opposed that too.
Mayor Sandra Bury recused herself from involvement in the decision because of the close proximity of her Complete Vision Care optometry office on the same block as Al-Khudari’s.
Four members of the Ehrlicher family, who live on the 9500 block of Melvina Avenue, directly west of the lot, said having a wall and parking lot in back of their home would be intrusive.
Maureen Ehrlicher pointed out that the doctor’s office already leases some parking spaces in the Crown Mortgage lot beside her house.
“ There is also a history here,” she said, asserting that when the medical office moved into its current location in a former Walgreens store in 2015, Abedelal and Al-Khudari did not follow through on promises not to encroach on the residential area or put up a “flashy sign.”
“ We were the ones who allowed him to come in after Walgreens left there. But since then, it has been a big hassle,” said her husband, Jason Ehrlicher. “I have no objections to his (business) growth. But he needs to find another solution. There is commercial property with parking available kitty-corner to it, so I don’t know why he wants to come into the residential area. There are a lot of kids on Moody, and we know people leaving the parking lot will go through the neighborhood to avoid 95 th Street.”
He said his family made improvements to their home after another doctor’s request to purchase it for parking was not approved by the village.
“ Approving it now would knowingly devalue my home by at least $30,000,” Jason Ehrlicher added.
“ In all fairness, as the business started out in 2015, you didn’t forecast that you would need any additional parking,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2 nd ), referring to a file compiled by residents of all the Planning and Zoning meetings going back to that date when the business was initially approved. “There is public parking across the street.”
Abedelal said the lot in question was purchased after Al-Khudari gave up a contract on the site that is now Buona Beef. Abedelal said this was done at the request of the village so the restaurant could purchase it.
“It is always a balancing act between the needs of businesses and residents. We are always trying to be flexible with our business owners but the quality of life of residents has to take precedence,” said Trustee Paul Mallo (3 rd ), whose district includes the site.