Morton Grove moves to opt out of Cook County ordinances

Morton Grove Board of Trustees listens to a presentation about proposed new zoning district. Photo by Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle.

By Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle

The Village of Morton Grove Board of Trustees took a first step toward opting out of Cook County’s impending minimum wage increase and sick leave ordinances, which take effect in July 1.

The move comes as a number of villages throughout Cook County either already passed or are considering passing similar ordinances. This includes the nearby Niles, where the village board is scheduled to consider the issue later this month. The village board is expected to hold the final vote during its May 22 meeting.

As previously reported by the Bugle, in October 2016, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance that would gradually increase the minimum wage over the next three years from the current Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. On July 1, 2017, it will increase to $10 an hour. It will then increase to $11 an hour in July 2018, $12 an hour in July 2019 and $13 an hour in July 2020.

On Oct. 5, 2016, the county approved an ordinance requires employers to give any employees that worked at least 80 hours within a 120 day period one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. They may not earn more than 40 hours per year. Like the minimum wage ordinance, it will take effect on July 1, 2017

In recent months, a number of suburban municipalities used their home rule authority to opt out of the two ordinances. The Morton Grove ordinance is slightly different than others. Instead of simply opting out, it specifies that Morton Grove minimum wage and paid sick leave policy would be set based on state and federal laws.

In the legislative summary statement, the board argued that increasing the minimum wage in Cook County without the same increases in the surrounding counties “contribute to a confusing patchwork of regulations regarding employee wages and benefits that is properly a matter of state-wide or national concern.”

Jon Lahn, Morton Grove resident and the director of Americans in Solidarity – Chicago, told the Bugle that he understood that balancing the needs of businesses and their employees is complicated, but he still opposed the opt-out ordinance.

“I oppose the ordinance because I believe that determining minimum wages on a town-by-town basis will inevitably lead to a race to the bottom where those municipalities who choose to support higher wages will be penalized by a comparative disadvantage to other towns that allow lower wages,” he said. “That is why a county or state-wide solution – one that takes into account the concerns of small businesses and workers alike – is best.”

Lahn also questioned the way it was put in place, noting that the sanctuary village ordinance that his organization proposed has been considered for months, and featured a town hall to get resident feedback, while the opt-out ordinance was introduced with little fanfare or discussion.

“It was amazing to me that after almost four months, multiple hearings, and a town-hall meeting, no one on, the board will come forward with any version of a Welcoming Ordinance – claiming that it requires more study, analysis, popular opinions, etc. – but out of the blue they can propose an ordinance that affects something as critical as the minimum wage for people who work and contribute to our community,” he said.

New type of manufacturing district under consideration

The Village of Morton Grove Board of Trustees will be voting on whether to create the new Office/Research Manufacturing District zoning classification.

The village currently has two types of manufacturing zoning districts – the M1 Restricted Manufacturing District and M2 General Manufacturing District. The new M-O/R Manufacturing districts would be geared toward offices, research and development facilities and technology start-ups that might not fit into more traditional industrial requirements. Microbreweries, art galleries, electronic repair shops and certain educational facilities would be allowed, though some of those uses would require Special Use permits.

The new classification came about because By Your Side, a Schaumburg-based autism therapy services provider, applied for a building permit to build a tutoring center for children with autism at 8145 River Drive, which is currently zoned M2. Such uses weren’t allowed in that type of district, but the property owner and the business owner argued that the tutoring center wasn’t incompatible with surrounding uses and asked for a text amendment.

The staff tried to figure out a compromise. After discussing the matter with owners of the surrounding buildings, they determined that many businesses already weren’t, strictly speaking, manufacturers. They decided that another, brand-new zoning classification might be more appropriate.

The first M-O/R district will go beyond the future By Your Side location, covering the area between River Drive, Park Avenue and Lehigh Avenue.

The staff also took used the ordinance as an opportunity to change some language about what sort of uses are allowed in existing manufacturing districts. During the May 8 meeting, Nancy Radzevich, the Morton Grove Community and Economic Development Director, explained that the idea was to focus on how products get made as opposed to what gets made.

“I think the amendments will really simplify the process, make it easier for businesses and staff to understand what permitted and what’s not permitted and allow us to better recruit businesses,” she said.

Morton Grove Village Administrator Ralph Czerwinski noted that there have been some concerns that M/O-R districts would allow schools. He explained that they would require a Special Use permit, and not just any school would be able to get in.

“We need to make sure schools are tailored to integrated into M1 and M2 uses,” he said, explaining that they would looking for schools that teach skills that would be fit the needs of the surrounding businesses.

The Village Board held the first reading during the May 8 meeting. The second and final reading is expected during the May 22 meeting.



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