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Second time is charm for Michigan Avenue zoning request

Wilmette village trustees approved zoning variations allowing a Michigan Avenue property owner to put mechanical equipment in a side yard rather than his front or rear yards after he modified their noise levels.  |  File photo
Wilmette village trustees approved zoning variations allowing a Michigan Avenue property owner to put mechanical equipment in a side yard rather than his front or rear yards after he modified their noise levels. | File photo

A Michigan Avenue homeowner whose plans to put a generator and air conditioning compressors on the south side of his property were derailed in May by village trustees’ noise concerns, now has the village’s official blessing to go forward.

The difference between homeowner Seth Martin’s first plan and the one Wilmette trustees approved July 8 is three-fold. It moves the mechanical equipment he wants to install for the house he is building at 1000 Michigan Ave. farther from his south property line, and thus farther from his neighbors. It calls for a sound barrier to be erected between the new standby generator and the neighborhood.

Martin will also install quieter condenser and generator models, in order to further cut down on how much noise will reach neighbors’ ears.

Martin first came before the board with multiple zoning variation requests on May 13. Trustees approved most of the requests he made in order to build his new house, but stripped variations for the mechanical equipment from that approval.

The rest of the case was referred back to the village’s zoning board of appeals, which had previously approved Martin’s entire request. The zoning board reheard the remainder of the case last month and approved the changes he and his architect included.

Only Trustee Mike Basil voted against approval of the zoning request. He voiced the same objection he did in May — that giving Martin approval for side yard placement of his mechanical equipment, especially when his property is more than large enough to place it in the front or rear yards, would set a bad zoning precedent.

“I suspect I’ll be OK with it,” Basil said, after he congratulated Martin for making the changes. “But I don’t think this case is the case to start with the precedent.”

Trustee Cameron Krueger, who had also been a vocal opponent of approving the condenser and generator variations, was not at the July 8 meeting.

Trustee Ted McKenna also lauded the changes, and said that the case might help other property owners as they consider how to place and shield mechanical equipment to meet sound level requirements when they install it.

Trustee Carol Ducommun, who had previously worried about precedent, said she was also satisfied by a letter from Wilmette Park District superintendent Bill Lambrecht, who said noise from the generator and the condensers would have very little impact on the district or patrons of its Gillson Park sailing beach. The beach lies south of Martin’s property and trustees in May had argued the district had the right to object to noise issues.

Back in May, Trustee Alan Swanson told Martin’s architect, Mark Weber, that he was concerned about noise shielding. This month he said he was impressed with the depth of effort the homeowner put into cutting noise for his neighbors: “Our experience has been, ‘Well, we’ll put a bush by it, or a fence by it,’ without much level of effort. In this case we saw a big level of effort … that goes a long way, to my way of thinking, and is why I’ll vote for it.”

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