Journal is giving residents 'Schiess fatigue'

Opinion

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I was disappointed to read your story about the development of the 827 Madison site in last week's Wednesday Journal for a number of reasons ("Schiess backs of density, will offer plan for Madison," July 20).

The main source of my disappointment was that I had spoken to Staff Reporter Drew Carter with the specific request that no quotes be attributed to me without my approval. I asked this because reporters sometimes make mistakes and I did not wanted to be quoted out of context, which is exactly what ended up happening.

The quote Carter included from me was in response to a question from him and was not representative of the rest of what was a private conversation. He later admitted that he "overlooked" my request. It was sloppy journalism and I hope he learns from it.

In my conversation with Carter I expressed my frustration (what I have come to call "Schiess fatigue") that both officials at Village Hall and reporters from Wednesday Journal seem to be missing the big picture when it comes to Mr. Schiess' methods of dealing with the community. In particular I do not believe that the Journal's coverage of Schiess' projects have been fair or balanced with the concerns of the various neighborhoods.

In fact at least one person I know is referring to the paper as "The Schiess Journal" this week with three extensive articles included, none of which seem to raise the difficult questions that would be appropriate to such coverage. These are the questions that I asked Drew Carter.

In Wednesday Journal's vast coverage, the Village Planner, Wednesday Journal and Schiess himself, asserts that he cares about the community and designs projects in response to their concerns.

If this is the case then why is it that every project of his that I am aware of in the past eight years has caused so many problems for the community? How many hours have been spent by various community groups to oppose his initial projects, only to have them radically altered when he realizes that he's gone too far?

He's practiced architecture in Oak Park for over a decade, so why can't he propose reasonable projects in the first place that are within the existing zoning? And if after a decade of working here he still doesn't know what is going to upset the community, why doesn't he meet with them before he starts designing to discuss whether or not, as is the case for the 827 Madison project, a 50 percent increase in the height of the proposed building over the existing zoning would be a problem for the neighbors?

Why didn't Wednesday Journal cover the unauthorized dumping under Scheiss' guidance of tons of dirt and garbage from the Mar Lac site to the 827 Madison site?

Why did Scheiss tell the neighborhood he had permission from the village when he did not? Why when confronted by the neighbors asking him to remove the dirt and garbage?#34;such as insulation cardboard and various other flammable objects?#34;did he say it would take three weeks? Why did he only remove it when the neighbors called village trustees to tour the dirt pile?

Why didn't the village notice over the course of several weeks that nearly 8-10 feet of dirt was amassing illegally on a site less than a mile from Village Hall on one of the village's busiest thoroughfares? Was Schiess fined for this dumping?

Instead of portraying Schiess as someone who is designing to be responsive to the neighborhood, why isn't the Journal asking why, after all of this time practicing architecture in Oak Park, he still doesn't seem to understand that this method of proposing large-scale, high-density projects at the outset only to scale down the projects later on to appear responsive to the neighbors' outrage is disrespectful to the community.

Look at your own headlines on pages 6-7 this week, "Schiess drops Bank One project height, pleases neighbors" and "Schiess backs off density, will offer plan for Madison."

Carter reports that Schiess was set to propose a project with less density. This is not accurate. The floor-area ratio (FAR), the most common determinant of density, is the same for both proposals. In his initial project, he proposed 6-stories and 60 units over the entire block between Carpenter and Grove. In the subsequent proposal he proposed six stories and 30 units over half of the site. The FAR is the same because he is not showing any plans yet for the Leona's parking lot. Less density would be three stories over the whole site.

What Carter did not report is that the existing zoning calls for four stories and Schiess continues to propose six despite the very loud opposition of the neighborhood.

Carter also reports that, "Schiess does not own a financial stake in buildings that he designs and shepherds through the planned development process." What Carter fails to note, however, is that Scheiss is the only person who benefits financially from the many meetings that he causes to occur.

While the neighbors on every project must take time away from their businesses, families and community efforts to attend these meetings and to protest his developments, Schiess is getting paid. While he may not have a financial stake in the building, he has a huge financial stake in the development process, while the neighbors lose both time and money.

In just the 827 Madison project alone, I have received since June 6, 342 e-mails from the community opposing this project and there are dozens of others in our neighborhood who have written or read hundreds more. Enough is enough.

If Mr. Schiess wants to work in Oak Park, he should design in a way that is more respectful to his neighbors and communicate with them honestly.

Weeks Ringle
Oak Park

Drew Carter apologizes for the confusion over use of the quote with Ms. Ringle.

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