By Anna Lothson
Two issues Oak Parkers have been vocal about will appear on Monday's village board agenda: parking and the proposed Lake and Forest development.
The two items are separate, although the Lake and Forest talks inevitably are accompanied by questions about parking, since the proposed development directly impacts the village-owned garage on the property, which will be rebuilt if the Lake and Forest project breaks ground.
Those questions are expected to be major points addressed by the village board, as Oak Park officials have said it's up to the developers, Lake Street Investors (formerly Sertus Capital Partners), to prove they've got the means to bring downtown Oak Park the long-delayed mixed commercial and residential project.
At the last community forum hosted Oct. 8 by Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and Trustee Adam Salzman, it was clear from the public's questions and elected officials' comments that Lake and Forest remains a heated topic.
Most recently, it was reported by Wednesday Journal that Lake Street Investors seeks a six-month extension to secure financing and start construction. The request, however, came after the group missed two deadlines with its agreements with the village. That article also detailed the lawsuit Lake Street Investors faces for missing mortgage payments.
Monday's meeting will include a formal decision from the board on granting an extension. The redevelopment agreement called for the closing and transfer of the village-owned property to the developer, which was supposed to occur by July 19. An extension to that may be granted by mutual written consent of the village and developer.
The request from the developer may also include other amendments to the agreement, according to an Oct. 7 village board agenda, but it does not state what those requests might be.
Elected officials have said they want real answers to the question of why an extension is necessary.
"We want to find a balance between if this developer is real ... and if they have the money," Abu-Taleb said during the Oct. 8 forum. "As far as I'm concerned, this is a new project. We as a board have to figure out if they are legit or not. … Today, they are not legit."
Salzman said during the forum that, because Lake Street Investors is asking for an extension after missing deadlines, it changes the dynamic of the conversation.
"In a sense they are asking for an extension retrospectively. That's going to create an interesting conversation," he said.
Check back with OakPark.com on Tuesday for updates from Monday's meeting.
Free holiday parking?
That's right. The words free and parking are being used together in Oak Park — at least for Saturdays during the holiday season.
That item will also be voted on at Monday's village board meeting.
A request from the village president sparked village staff to write up an ordinance allowing up to two hours of free metered parking at any meter in the village and in all village-owned parking garages on weekends during holiday shopping. This request also came from business districts representatives.
Previously, parking garages have been free during holiday times, but this change would allow for free weekend metered parking starting the Friday after Thanksgiving and continuing every Saturday leading up to Christmas Day. The request also proposes that free parking be offered at garages and meters on July 4.
The free-parking plan is being done in large part to help encourage people to shop in Oak Park for the holidays, but it also comes with a financial cost to the village.
Free parking at meters would reduce parking revenue by an estimated $17,769, according to a village report. Expenditures would also increase by an estimated $9,500, because the village would have to purchase meter bags and pay staff to place the bags over the meters for the designated free days. The July 4 expense is anticipated to reduce revenue by about $2,778 annually. Decreased revenue from offering free parking in garages on Saturdays amounts to around $16,668.
According the report, the village incurs $3,000 in administrative costs annually to program the parking garage payment system to accommodate the free Friday after Thanksgiving, plus free Saturdays through Dec. 25.
Parking on Sundays is always free in the garages.