Mills Park Tower struggles after losing parking

Village rents parking spaces near senior citizen building

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's been a few months since seniors living in Mills Park Tower lost access to about 10 parking spaces near their affordable senior living building in the Pleasant District.

While the decision by the village to turn the spots, which run adjacent to Mills Park along Pleasant Place, into permit-only parking aimed to help area residents, the newly permitted parking – the village is charging about $250 per quarter for each spot – has left seniors without a nearby place for caregivers, doctors, family members and others to park while visiting and making deliveries to the building.

More than a dozen seniors turned out for a special meeting of the Oak Park Board of Trustees in late May, calling the change "thoughtless" and a "great hardship" for those unable to walk several blocks to find a parking spot.

Mills Park Tower resident Ron Fernandopulle told board members that after his recent foot surgery his nurse found it difficult to find parking during a checkup and once she was there had to leave quickly over fear of getting a parking ticket.

"The ticket might be more than she's making for an hourly rate," he said.

Fernandopulle said he believes it was a "greedy" decision by the village to make money off the spots once used by those living in Mills Park Tower.

"There's no excuse for this crappy decision," he said, calling on the village to refund the money for the permits and "put them back to what it was."

Sal Fioretti said in a recent interview that he is visited three times a week at Mills Park Tower by his caregiver, Dorothy, and said, "I'm afraid she's going to quit."

He said Dorothy earns only $10 an hour and likely can't afford tickets from the village if she is unable to find parking.

"She needs the work and I need her," he said.

Resident David Kelm said that before the permit parking structure was established it was a "come-and-go situation" where parking was sporadically available but added that now "when the people aren't there they just sit empty."

Others at Mills Park Tower said they've had family members skip or shorten their visits because of the parking situation in the area and that many relatives who also are elderly have a difficult time walking even a block to get to the building to see their loved ones.

Food and other delivery services also have been made more difficult by the removal of the parking spaces, according to residents.

Eileen Gerges said her twin has stopped coming to visit because of the parking shortage and added that one of the residents in the building had a caregiver quit because there was no place to park.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees acted quickly in referring the issue back to the citizen-led Transportation Commission, where the recommendation originally was suggested. But with the permits already sold it could be impossible for the village to quickly reverse the new permit parking system.

Jack Chalabian, chairman of the Transportation Commission, was not immediately available to discuss the decision by the commission to recommend making the spots permit-only.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the change is part of an overall review the village and Transportation Commission has undertaken to improve parking throughout Oak Park.

"I think the Transportation Commission is trying to be responsive to residents first and foremost," she said. "The needs of Mills Park Tower were not completely vetted in that process, so they're going to look at that again."

Trustee Bob Tucker, who serves as trustee liaison to the Transportation Commission, said the problems caused by the permit parking were an "unintended consequence."

"We're trying to develop a system overall that balances the needs of many different interest groups," Tucker said of the parking review the village has been undertaking.

He said the board and commission need to respond quickly when unintended consequences come about as a result of parking changes.

"There's not a single member on the board … that doesn't have a lot of sympathy for our senior citizens," he said. "We want them active and engaged and to make their lives as easy as we can."

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 24th, 2017 1:18 PM

This shows ample reason why new developments need to be built with adequate parking. Even if they are in transit districts, the residents will have visitors and service providers who are likely to drive. And some parking needs to be allocated for employees of the ground floor commercial spaces. Plus, even though some units will be occupied by someone who does not have a vehicle, there are likely to be a few units occupied by those with two vehicles.

Delores Palmore from Oak Park  

Posted: June 22nd, 2017 10:58 AM

Sad how Seniors are being treated Village Board need to listen to the people we have a voice when election comes up you over here at Mills Park Toweer pleading for our votes

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: June 16th, 2017 2:04 AM

Empathy will get us to greater solutions than sympathy.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 1:04 PM

Same story. Residents in need cant have their service provider park in front of their homes, residents having to park blocks away.. The village government being flexible as steel to the needs of the community and demand fees.So why not a government valet service. The visiting nurse parks on the top under used floor of a parking garage or off site parking,, calls the valet to pick them up and transports them to and from their parked auto to their job location. Stagger start and ending times so everyone can be accommodated. Get some people in need of fulfilling community service hours to wash the parked cars, thus saying thank you to the outsiders who support our community. Use of cell phones to the valet would eliminate the need for a dispatcher.

Melissa Cokenower  

Posted: June 15th, 2017 10:06 AM

This article is very one sided to the residents of the building. As a resident who is plagued with issues regarding the availability of permit parking, I for one am pleased that the village is making an effort to provide more permit parking. I agree with the suggestion below to have the permit restrictions only apply to the evening hours, similar to most permit parking in the town. This solution would seem to solve both the needs of the residents in the building and those of the residents of other buildings who need a place to park their car. And let us not forget...that the permit parking is more often than not going to a resident who has paid taxes to this town. If I were a local resident who couldn't park my car in my own town to whom I pay taxes, all so the "visitors" could have free parking spots, I would be outraged. There is a small number of spots available and residents should be given priority over visitors and I can not fault the village for that kind of thinking. What should be addressed is why the parking is so sparse to begin with. Why is it visitors versus residents? Why can we not use our residential streets more to the advantage of our residents. Why so many restrictions? Why so many arguments? Why so many empty side streets? Why?

Kline Maureen  

Posted: June 14th, 2017 10:50 AM

one thing ALL RESIDENTS of the village should demand is that new construction should NOT be allowed to reduce the number of parking spaces below that which is typically suggested - most of the new higher density residential development built within the past 10 years, including some of larger, high-rise buildings under construction, have been granted variances to reduce the number of parking spaces they provide because they are in "transit-overlay" districts. The thinking (theoretically) is that the residents will not have cars - nor will they have guests or service workers who have cars either... If anything, MORE parking should be required, not less. This is just another consequence of the Village's misguided attempts to provide extra gravy to developers despite whatever inconvenience may result for residents.

Terry Stanton  

Posted: June 14th, 2017 10:36 AM

A loss of ten spaces is making the building impossible to visit? If visitor parking access to a building that size in that part of town is so critical, the building management should come up with a plan to visit. Scarce parking is something we all have to deal with, and which many of us pay a lot of money to have, and, with sympathies to the needs of senior residents, village parking strategies shouldn't bow to the circumstances of one building over the needs of the surrounding community. Leaving 10 spaces open isn't a specific solution anyway.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 14th, 2017 10:11 AM

There is a small surface lot behind the building, likely used only by staff. Some creative double parking system would open up six to eight spaces for visitors. The building staff could also institute some valet parking and use the town lot, which is only a couple blocks away and always has 100's of open spots, but that would cost the building and residents, and they want free parking - so it must be the town's fault.

Janet Haisman from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2017 10:30 PM

Did no one think to ask anyone who lives in Mills Tower or who perhaps manages the building? It must feel to the residents that no one cares. Let's face it - young people do not know what it's like to be old! But they could easily have asked for the opinion of those residents.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2017 8:44 PM

Any normal building of that size should have always had several floors of its own built in parking for the residents use, but no one did that because corners get cut on affordable housing to keep it cheap. Now its a crisis when the rest of the neighborhood uses some spots that are there for everyone in the neighborhood. Mills should get in line to buy those permits if they feel they somehow own those spots, but holding spots for random visitors is kind of hard to do.

Kaidrea Stockman  

Posted: June 13th, 2017 8:02 PM

Reading this I'm thinking of the SNL skit with Kenan Thompson Fix It! Just Fix It! :) https://youtu.be/HR_5QFZ-kbk

Elaine Sumitra Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2017 5:40 PM

How could the commission not have seen this consequence? It's so obvious.

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: June 13th, 2017 3:19 PM

Thats a another shame on Oak Park

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