Whiteco takes two small steps forward

Trustees silent about closed-door issue, how it may affect project

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Three and a half months after nixing the fast-track expansion of the Holley Court parking deck, Oak Park trustees Monday dug up their decision, dusted it off, turned it around and approved it.

The move clears some of the hurdles blocking the addition of more than 300 spaces to the garage, but trustees were mum when asked about a ongoing closed-door conversation with Whiteco Residential that may or may not affect how the project at Harlem and Ontario moves ahead.

The board reversed two July 25 votes at its regular meeting Monday night, one involving the vacation of its ownership of a 60-foot "stub" of Holley Court Street, the other granting an easement for utility services in the alley off Harlem Avenue just north of Lake Street.

At the meeting, the votes came unceremoniously and without discussion. There were four votes: whether to re-vote on each issue, and the new votes on the issues. After the meeting, President David Pope said he felt the commentary read by the village manager before each vote sufficed, and that "no elaboration was necessary."

Originally, all trustees but Ray Johnson and President Pope voted against the actions. Monday, all but Greg Marsey, who was absent, and Robert Milstein voted in favor of the measures. Marsey said Tuesday he would have voted for them.

Milstein said after the meeting that he was being consistent in opposing progress on Whiteco. He abstained on the vacation vote and voted no on the utility matter "to send a message." However, he praised his colleagues for reversing their earlier vote.

"Obviously by these votes [Whiteco is] moving forward," Milstein said. "I think it showed an open mind of the board as a whole." He added that the measures approved would have to be done "no matter who develops there."

Marsey said that the votes came late into the July 25 meeting, and trustees had been alarmed by Whiteco's announcement to change architects. "I don't think any of us who voted against them were of any mind to vote for what was before us," he said.

Trustee Elizabeth Brady said the no votes in July gave the board time to fully understand the situation.

Trustees Martha Brock and Geoff Baker could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

The village and Whiteco have a contract. Jim Prescott, a Whiteco spokesman, said the votes indicate the board's forward progress and that he expected progress soon on a construction schedule.

However, some trustees balked at that suggestion, not being able to say anything more, but indicating the ongoing conversation with the developer that must be held in executive session.

Marsey said he still has questions about "designs that remain un-presented to us." He's concerned how the developer's new architect will flesh out the building in "substantial conformity" to what was approved by the Plan Commission, a requirement of the agreement.

Milstein said the board is "trying to get a good product" at the site.

Brady said "check points" remain between the village and the developer, but said the closed-door conversations won't keep the project from being built.

As for a timeline, some things still need to be worked out, trustees said. Voting to move ahead with the stub vacation and utility easement keep the village in compliance with its agreement with Whiteco.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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