Whiteco gets 1st green light in 2 1/2 years

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Whiteco Residential's latest rental and retail development proposal for the corner of Harlem Avenue and Ontario Street won a preliminary green light last night from the Oak Park Plan Commission.

The Plan Commission voted 6-1 to recommend the Village Board approve the controversial proposal, after some 30 hours of testimony and deliberation.

It is unlikely that the plan commission's recommendation will be overturned by the village board, as trustees already approved a redevelopment agreement with Whiteco in a 5-2 vote.

A "supermajority" of the board, or five trustees, would have to vote against the project to nix the commission's recommendation.

At its final hearing, commissioners went point-by-point through remaining questions they had about the deal, which the village will aid with an $8.25 million subsidy. In the end, they did not argue or attempt to sway others to vote their way, each commissioner voting without explanation.

Before the vote, commissioners added a handful of amendments and conditions to their recommendation, including a commitment by Whiteco to not appeal its tax assessments beyond a certain rate and that the company would provide an ombudsperson and contact information to file complaints with during construction. Encouraging safe and direct pedestrian connections to Lake Street from the Holley Court garage and along Harlem Avenue, was also an amendment.

The conditions, along with other concessions that Whiteco made since its first design, did not sway the opinions of opponents of the development in attendance who were hoping for a different vote.

I was just hoping the whole thing would be canceled and we could say goodbye to Whiteco," said Paul Heyes, who like many observers wore a New Leadership Party button.

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