This is in response to Anna Churin's letter [Is the VMA stacking the Plan Commission? Viewpoints, April 18]. I am not responding specifically to the Forest/Lake development, but her overall premise that "the village president and board of trustees want the Plan Commission to rubber-stamp what the trustees wanted and not to represent the positions of other citizens."
I served on the Plan Commission from March 1990 through December 2004. I also was, and still am, a member of the Village Manager Association (VMA). I was not appointed by the president and board of trustees without going through the proper prequalification procedures, i.e. submitting an application to the Citizens Involvement Commission for its review and recommendation to the president and board of trustees. The identical process applied when I was appointed to the Liquor Control Review Board and the Community Relations Commission (which I served as head of the Housing Subcommittee that urged a somewhat reluctant board to reinstitute the first-time homebuyers program).
Regarding my voting record on the Plan Commission, as a "loyal VMA member," I voted against the mixed-use planned unit development (PUD) at the old south Oak Park postal facility site on Oak Park Avenue, just south of Garfield Boulevard. After much deliberation, I felt that the materials used in that development were inconsistent with the urban fabric of the neighborhood. In retrospect, I still believe that.
I voted against the PUD at Ridgeland and South Boulevard, primarily because I thought the architecture was unimaginative and pseudo-suburban and, at that time, any rental potential would be difficult to sustain. Looking back, I still think the architecture leaves much to be desired and leasing difficult, although I am hopeful that the latter consideration has been stabilized.
I voted against Whiteco I for many complex reasons, but primarily because I thought the architecture was atrocious, particularly from the west side of the PUD, looking east and I did not believe that the development could sustain such high-end rental rates. Looking back, I am still not a fan of the architecture. However, there does appear to be a niche for this type of PUD; rental rates are at 90-95 percent; and I do love Trader Joe's.
Another really important aspect regarding these PUDs, was the incredibly detailed discussion that occurred, particularly Whiteco I, which went into the wee hours of the morning. This really was not a ploy to wear out those participating against the PUD; plan commissioners were exhausted as well. Serving on that Plan Commission were former Trustee Jon Hale, current trustees Ray Johnson and Colette Lueck, and current Village President David Pope, obviously no strangers to the VMA.
In summary, I do not believe "our government seems to be following an ideology that does not serve the citizens of Oak Park by filling the (plan) commission with one view, the view held by the VMA." There are as many divergent views within the VMA as there are within this community as a whole. How else do you think the VMA has been so effective since 1952?
Answer Book 2017
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