CHICAGO-Administering the city’s new zoning law may take more manpower than the tight budget allows, members of the city council’s committee on zoning concede. The city’s first rewrite of the zoning code in 46 years calls for more reviews of site plans as well as lower thresholds before multifamily projects become planned developments, requiring greater oversight by planning and development staff.

Consultant Kirk R. Bishop says commercial developments larger than 75,000 sf will require the developer to go through the planned development process, which includes public hearings in addition to city staff review. Previously, projects being built on sites larger than four acres fell under the planned development umbrella. Also, more residential buildings will be scrutinized, he notes. Height limits have been lowered from 180 or 285 feet to 100 or 150 feet in the city’s densest multifamily zoning categories.

While projects smaller than 100 units were able to fly under the radar in the previous zoning code, a 40-unit townhouse proposal might be large enough to trigger the planned development process, according to the rewrite.

“There’s a level below 100 units that is deserving of additional review,” Bishop says.

While community groups will welcome the higher level of scrutiny, a financially strapped city treasury may not, some think. Department heads already are laying off employees.

“I wonder if we have the staff to do it,” says Alderman Burton Natarus, whose 42nd Ward has seen a plethora of planned developments involving Downtown office and multifamily projects. “We’ll probably have to hire 50 to 100 more people…Do we have the money?”

The zoning committee chairman, 36th Ward Alderman William J.P. Banks, also wonders if the money will be there to administer the new code. However, the silence of top-level managers leads him to believe the zoning as well as planning and development departments can handle the additional workload. “It is my sense they feel comfortable with it,” he adds.

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