Before inking development plan, village eyes master plan revision

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Ten days into a 120-day planning process, the Oak Park village board met with the Taxman Corporation Monday to discuss how it will begin gathering public input on potential redevelopment of the southwest corner of downtown.

Following this week's meeting, it appears likely that the process will focus on revising a portion of the downtown master plan encompassing the area bounded by Harlem Avenue and Marion Street, North Boulevard and Lake Street.

"This is a pretty broad area. In my eyes, we're looking at a potential amendment to that plan," said Village Planner Craig Failor. The plan was crafted by the Portland, Ore.-based consulting firm of Crandall and Arambula and approved by the village board in March.

Board members acknowledged that the plan's recommendations for this quadrant proved the most controversial. Those recommendations included creating a new street, which would run from the train station on North Boulevard to Lake Street, and tearing down some Tudor-style buildings along Westgate.

Failor said two of the top issues that will need to be addressed as part of the planning process, likely to include stakeholder and public meetings, will be historic preservation and traffic.

Sy Taxman, the owner of Taxman CorpTaxman and the board have already begun identifying stakeholders who will participate in the planning process for the area. However, some debate centered on whether the village should bring in additional paid consultants and experts to participate in the process. It's likely that some experts will have to review the implications of any redevelopment on traffic, as well as conduct a financial analysis, village officials said.

While some board members said they would like to see outside planning consultants involved in the process, others said they would like to keep the process under the purview of village staff, the board and Taxman.

"This needs to be a collaborative effort," said Trustee Greg Marsey, adding that Crandall and Arambula often took the brunt of criticism from the public during the original planning process. "Otherwise, if anybody thinks the process is off track, they'll all aim arrows at the [consultant]."

"With a wider range of people owning the process, we're left with a better product," said Trustee Ray Johnson. "We need to measure the tradeoffs not just in dollars, but in quality of life."

Trustee Martha Brock, however, said the board should consider bringing in more expertise. "I feel absent is a professional in that area. I hope the board will consider that very seriously. Taxman is a very skilled organization. We would do the community a service by making sure the right parties are at the table," she said.



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