For 10 years, we have lived in a nice house on a quiet neighborhood in Oak Park. Part of the reason that it has been so peaceful here is that Carpenter Avenue, the street on which we live, extends for no more than four blocks. In other words, no one knows we're here. That, of course, has been a mixed blessing in that the Village of Oak Park also seemed to have forgotten that we even exist. Still, it seemed like a small price to pay for our solitude.
For years, we collectively have grumbled about the condition of our street. For starters, it has been a long time since the area has been re-paved, and the semi-annual attempts to fill the potholes hardly have been adequate. Even worse, many of us have had to endure the problem that our driveways are much too steep, and essentially, the only manner in which we can access our properties is to enter them in reverse?#34;at a precise angle, no less. Otherwise, we risk damaging our cars, and if someone parks in front of our home, we were unable to get into our driveway at all.
Some people have opted to incur the expense of purchasing oversized vehicles to avoid the hassle; others have simply learned to live with this extraordinary nuisance. As for guests, they park at their own risk and never realize how steep it is until it is too late. Still, no one bothered us. It was quiet.
Then, strange things started to happen. Two years ago, the traffic flow was altered. What had been a set of north-south stop signs at the corner of Carpenter and Monroe suddenly were altered to face an east-west direction. A traffic consultant suggested it, and so it was done?#34;without any input from the residents. Again, it was quiet, so we dealt with it.
Then, the nearby blocks of Kenilworth and Clinton were re-paved, and as a result, the traffic was redirected to flow down Carpenter. Essentially, our street became a raceway as cars sped from Madison to Jackson, pausing only briefly to stop?#34;or rather yield?#34;at the newly inserted stop sign at Carpenter and Adams.
"Maybe things will settle down once the road work is completed," we thought. Then, the notice came that Carpenter also was to be re-paved and that the grade of the street would be corrected. Foolishly, we believed that our local government hadn't forgotten about us! Ah, how fallacious that thought happened to be. In fact, the entire reason for finally repairing our street had little to do with us, the long-term property taxpayers of Oak Park.
Instead, it had everything to do with the proposed construction of an 80-unit, 6-story residential and commercial monstrosity on Madison, between Carpenter and Grove?#34;with additional plans to expand the project not only to reach Oak Park Avenue, but also to include the northern side of Madison. In other words, our quiet neighborhood is about to be devastated by a massive influx of traffic.
Were we even consulted or informed that these plans were already in progress? The answer is no, at least not until after the buildings currently situated on the site had been destroyed.
A lone meeting about the project was held after the fact on short notice in an overly confined and claustrophobic room that was designed for the sheer purpose of intimidating us. Such is business as usual in the Village of Oak Park, where we, the current residents, have little say in what is being done to our neighborhoods.
As it currently stands, there already is an abundance of unutilized retail space along Madison, and with the never-ending construction of condos and townhouses, the influx of both people and cars has caused a severe parking shortage as well as immense congestion at virtually every major intersection. Surely, the construction of additional retail and residential units is only going to make matters worse, especially since the plan is to have all of the vehicles enter and exit from Carpenter and Grove. Simply put, these streets cannot handle the level of traffic that this project will produce?#34;at least not without seriously devaluing our properties. When will the village stop paying attention to developers and start paying attention to the concerns of its citizens?