Developers: Go extra mile to win neighbors' trust

Opinion

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Need development lead necessarily to discord and animosity? Rare is the individual who welcomes an ugly wall, traffic, noise or bright lights in her backyard. Obviously we all want quiet, safe homes conveniently located near thriving business. But just as obviously we all want those businesses to be far enough away that we don't notice them while eating breakfast or playing with our kids in the backyard.

Local newspapers in recent weeks have featured stories about the West Suburban Hospital expansion, lights over the OPRF football stadium, and a new drive-up bank. Neighbors adjacant to all three of those projects are understandably upset. I myself recently spoke out against the West Sub expansion on grounds that the hospital would profit at the expense of my neighborhood.

I firmly believe good design can mitigate most if not all of the neighborhood concerns in instances where developers and neighbors clash. But I fear the hospital 200 yards from my backyard is not sufficiently motivated to act in my best interests. The families near the proposed new bank drive-up fear, I suspect, the same.

Of course, the needs of the many sometimes outweigh the needs of the few. And, of course, thriving communities need a strong, thriving business presence. And we neighbors need to acknowledge that and avoid saying "never, never, no way" and be willing to work with developers.

On the other hand, developers must work to win the trust of neighborhood associations. We don't trust you. We don't believe you have our best interests at heart. Prove to us that you really do want to work toward a win-win situation. Behave as though your proposed project were in your own backyard. Go the extra mile to address our concerns as if they were your own personal concerns.

We owe it to each other to work in a climate of openness and reciprocity. Businesses and residential neighborhoods in Oak Park need each other. We can do no better than to work toward solutions that benefit all parties involved.

Karl Lauger
Oak Park

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