Green Spring in Chicago

Grass with flowers

Two years ago, in the wake of the economic downturn, Chicago business owners were given a reprieve from the landscaping ordinances that required among other things replacement of chain link fences with decorative ironwork and planting trees and shrubs. The reprieve is up in June of this year. The council will have to weigh the green aspects of enforcing the code with the need to respect the slow growth of the small businesses it affects. At least one Alderman, Ariel Reboyras in the 30th, is considering an additional 2 year reprieve for small business owner enforcement saying that business owners should not have to choose between paying employees and paving parking lots.

Chicago did pass an ordinance stating that businesses such as Walmart that want to build big box facilities may exceed building size limitations if planners incorporate a green roof. If businesses go with a green roof, they can apply to expand beyond the floor to area ratio that zoning ordinances allow. Chicago has also continued to amend its landscaping ordinances as applied to new construction, for example requiring that one shade tree must be planted for every 25 feet of new building frontage in most commercial and residential neighborhoods.

Homeowners should also be aware that most cities and villages have landscape ordinances. These range from the West Chicago law that allows no chain link fences in front yards to lawn watering restrictions in Wheaton. Check with your local town or city to find out what rights and restrictions you have as a property owner.

The Chicago ordinance regarding weeds walks a fine line between promoting the use of native plant material to conserve water and reduce carbon dioxide emissions and making sure that homeowners maintain and mange their properties. As weeds can obscure dangerous debris, hide rodents, and serve as mosquito breeding grounds you may call 311 and report high weeds in vacant lots or the public way. The Department of Streets and Sanitation will cut or spray herbicides to remove the weeds. As a resident you can also request a no-spray option.

Remember that property ownership offers benefits as well as community responsibilities. Ankin Law will be working with Alderman Ameya Pawar and the Southport Neighbors Association on ward clean-up day this spring.