By Bob Balgemann


The Village of Machesney Park requires that special use permits be issued to allow certain kinds of uses in various zoning districts around town. 

Trustees recently considered two such cases with numerous conditions being added to the permits. 

One of them resulted in filling space on the back side of the former Machesney Park Mall, at 8780 N. Second St., which had been vacant for almost 20 years. The other authorized adding ammunition assembly and repair to the existing Firearm Assembly and Repair business at 9863 N. Alpine Road. 

Both requests were approved in unanimous votes of the village board. 

But first they were part of a busy July agenda of the planning and economic development committee (PED). 

Planning and Zoning Manager Carrie Houston initially said village staff did not see a future retail use for the former mall. The vacant space once was occupied by a 7th Avenue store, which featured home decor, furniture and electronics. Now it is owned by Jim Michalsen, who wanted to use it as an overflow warehouse for office furniture from his Michaelsen Office Furniture business. The business is located further south, at North Second Street and Harlem Road. 

Warehousing and distribution only is allowed in commercial general zoning, with a special use permit. 

Initially, staff’s recommendation for approval had two conditions: 

* Truck traffic, routing for deliveries and shipments, shall access this location via Velocity Drive. Semi-trucks or box trucks never shall travel on South Mall Drive or East Mall Drive. 

* No intercoms or amplified communication shall be used on the exterior of the property. (This part of the building is near a residential neighborhood). 

The planning and zoning commission (P&Z) next took up the request and unanimously recommended approval, with the addition of the following condition: 

* Only vehicles associated with the Michalsen Officer Furniture business are allowed to park on the premises. No more than eight box trucks shall be regularly kept on site, and no running semi-trucks and trailers shall be parked on the premises overnight. 

Of the third condition, Village Administrator James Richter II explained during the PED meeting that “previous ownership of the mall has been lax in enforcing that. The new owner, Mr. Michalsen, is interested in the future of the property.

We do have an ordinance that allows us to do some enforcement there. It requires signage to be put up on the property, so it’s a process that we’re working through. We understand the concerns.” 

There were no other questions, prompting the unanimous voice vote recommending approval. The village board followed with first and second readings of approval for Ordinance 28-21, as part of consent agendas at its July 19 and Aug. 2 meetings. 

Ammo added 

A change was requested in the existing special use allowing firearm assembly and repair at 9863 N. Alpine Road, which the village board originally approved in February 2021. Now, the applicant was seeking to add ammunition assembly and repair to that operation. 

During the P&Z meeting, the applicant explained there is a demand from target shooting facilities for the lead-free ammunition that is assembled in the local business. In addition, the local operation also would like to sell firearms and ammunition online, or by appointment only to local buyers. 

Given that, P&Z voted to amend the second existing condition to state: “Sale and resale of new or used firearms or ammunition shall be online or by appointment only.” 

With that in place, and six other conditions, P&Z voted unanimously to recommend approval of the request. The other conditions are: 

* Firearm and ammunition assembly and repair only may be conducted in the 1,900-square-foot suit at 9863 N. Alpine Road, as indicated in the submitted site plan for the special use permit application. 

* No sale or resale of new or used firearms and ammunition shall be conducted from the North Alpine Road premises. 

* Any test firing of the firearms shall only be into OSHA-approved test firing containers. 

* Security, surveillance and alarm system details must be submitted and shall be reviewed and approved by the village public safety supervisor, and installed prior to conducting the firearm and assembly and repair use. 

* Reinforced exterior doors and windows are required. 

* An ST-1 sales tax registration is required to be submitted to the Illinois Department of Revenue, indicating the business address in Machesney Park, IL. 

The request met all six criteria required for a special use permit to be issued. The criteria were established to make sure a use or uses of property would not have a negative impact on adjacent residents or businesses, or those in the immediate vicinity. 

One of the staff determinations read, “Adding ammunition to the services this specific business provides would not change the surrounding area in any way.” 

Committee member and Trustee Erick Beck asked how many people would be working at the business? 

Manager Houston said the main employee was the applicant’s son, Zack, who has finished the proper training to do this kind of work. “I’m not sure if there will be any other employees,” she added. “It’s a vary small operation.” 

With no additional discussion, and in addition to P&Z and staff, the PED recommended approval of the request in a unanimous voice vote.  

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