Photo by Sharon L. Filkins
Property that has long been vacant at 112th and Harlem in Worth was proposed for use as a day-care center. Due to heavy traffic in the area, the Worth Village Board turned down the request.
By Sharon L. Filkins
The Village Board of Trustees in Worth faced a difficult decision at the July 17 meeting regarding a proposed day-care facility seeking a special use permit and parking variance for a long-empty property at 11220 S. Harlem Ave.
After a lengthy discussion and a presentation of revised plans by the applicants, the request was denied in a 3-2 vote. Opposing the motion were Trustees Rich Dziedzic and Kevin Ryan.
Village attorney Greg Jones stated that the motion required four positive votes in order to be approved.
Dziedzic, chairman of the Building and Ordinances committee, reported that the Real Estate Development Board (REDB) had reviewed the proposed plans for the 5,000-square-foot building at a July 2 hearing and recommended that the requests for the special use and variance be denied.
Dziedzic said that the REDB was concerned about the traffic issues with parents dropping off and picking up children at the proposed facility. The building in question is located on the west side of Harlem Avenue at the corner of 112th Street.
“Harlem Avenue has heavy traffic in morning and evening rush hours and parents would have a very difficult time getting back onto Harlem, or trying to cross over to the northbound lanes,” he said.
He added that a lineup of parents waiting to drop off their children or pick them up could cause serious and dangerous traffic problems.
Additionally, the original plans for the day-care facility called for a 900-square-foot playground at the rear of the building, which would eliminate parking spaces required by existing zoning requirements.
The applicants for the proposed facility -- Raymond Smith and Raeshaun Smith -- were present at the meeting and asked to address the board. They presented a revised plan for the property, which included constructing the aforementioned playground inside the building that they said would then free the space at the rear of the building for the required parking spaces.
As discussion continued on whether or not to consider the revised plans for approval, there was a general opinion that having the building occupied would be good for the village, but the traffic problem outweighed the positive issue.
“It is really a shame that we have someone who wants to occupy this building, which has been vacant for years but traffic and parking is a major problem with the project,” said Trustee Pete Kats. “We really need to look at our policies and procedures regarding economic development in our business areas.”
“I know the building has been empty,” said Trustee Kevin Ryan, who chairs the finance committee. “But we also have to realize that we would not be gaining any sales tax revenue from a day care facility.”
Trustee Brad Urban asked the applicants if they had considered any other available space in the village.
“We have a number of vacant businesses that could possibly work for you,” he said.
Worth Mayor Mary Werner added that there were three vacant store fronts on 111th Street, in the plaza directly across the street from the village hall.
“Why don’t you take a look at them? There would be plenty of parking spaces there because the other stores are generally busier during evening hours. We would be happy to have your business in Worth,” she said.