A recent letter to the editor brought up the complications of exiting from the Whiteco deal and another brought up downtown parking complaints and yet another news story discussed the possibility of former President Trapani moving from Oak Park and of our current development director definitely leaving. I'd like to comment on these.
What initially seemed to me strange?#34;the village and Whiteco being co-applicants on the project?#34;may be the saving grace for killing the deal.
When partnerships are formed they are usually formed with exit agreements in place for unknown contingencies. I personally believe in the integrity of Ray Heise, our well respected village attorney, and can not imagine that these exit agreements were not in the development deal.
Additionally with regard to Whiteco possibly suing the village for additional damages, they would be absolutely mad to do anything like that. Whiteco has to work with cities and municipalities all over the country and to endanger their reputation with a law suit over not getting $20 million dollars in freebies would be foolish. They'd be the laughing stock of the development world.
One of my buildings sits directly across from the Whiteco site and having been there on a daily basis these past three weeks I can state with certainty that there exists plenty of parking at the Holley Court garage site even with the closing of the Bank One lot.
If Whiteco is not built there will be no need for an additional garage on North Boulevard. It seems to me what customers are complaining about is the loss of convenience with the Bank One lot closing, and I sympathize with that.
For the short term what the village needs to do is make the Holley Court surface lot a free parking lot and expand pedestrian access to the surface lot to make it easier for shoppers to get to downtown.
If the report is true about President Trapani leaving the village that would be a sad thing. She has personally supported many Oak Park charities and contributed four years of service in the village's most important position. While I disagreed with many things she did, I liked her as a fellow Oak Parker.
With the exit of yet another economic development director it may be time to reexamine what the position has done for us over the years. A previous director foisted the Planned Unit Development ordinance on us, which has caused all the fighting in the village these past six years.
Once the ordinance was in place and the director gone, all the promises that were made by that director were forgotten. Among the promises were these: it was only going to be used on Madison, Roosevelt and North Avenue; it was only going to be used sparingly; it was not going to negatively affect neighbors; the compensating benefits were going to be great and taxes were going to go down.
Now our recent development director, with the help of the Plan Commission, used the Planned Unit Development ordinance with a vengeance and apparently this has helped his resume.
Super dense projects in Historic Districts, lot line to lot line nonsense, no regard to parking requirements, who cares about the neighbors who are unreasonable anyway, let's just get it built. Now he's leaving and we have to live with what's left behind.
I'd characterize all of this as a mess and now a new board has deal with it.
This new board is not experienced, they do not move in lock step as previous boards did and their meetings are not pretty. But I'd have to say that of the two decisions that I know about, they reached the right conclusions.
The special use permit asked for by the current Marshall Field's building owners were unreasonable and if any one thinks that the retailers are complaining about parking now, they'd be screaming with 450 cash strapped students taking up all the new spaces in the proposed parking garage addition for Whiteco.
The vote to not fast track the Holley Court parking garage addition was a good one. If Whiteco is not built we won't need a new garage there. If it is built we are going to need way more parking than the proposal calls for.
The new board is doing the right thing by slowing down the process, debating the issues, and coming to reasonable decisions that are designed to enhance retail growth while preserving the historic character of our village and by not emptying our treasury every time a developer winks at our economic development director.
The meetings may be long, the trustees may say goofy things, but the decisions reached so far are right for the citizens of our community, just not right for developers.