The Oak Park village board’s decision to purchase the Colt building and 1145 Westgate from the Taxman/Focus Corp. for $7.5 million comes as no surprise. It was actually made more than three months ago when trustees Baker, Brady, Brock, and Milstein publicly rejected the central recommendations of the DTOP/Superblock Citizen Committee that the trustees themselves created.

It’s ironic that these NLP trustees, elected on the premise of paying more attention to citizen input, would reject such a widely agreed-upon plan, then spend three months dithering in secret negotiations (that apparently included the NLP’s president/chief campaign financier) before finally doing what they intended to do all along.

This decision is simply not grounded in reality. It reflects a lack of sensitivity to how historic preservation really works, to the financial realities of downtown Oak Park, and to the real needs of Oak Parkers for an improved downtown and an expanded tax base to better fund our schools, which are facing large annual deficits.

Now the process moves back to the starting line, with the board apparently intending to issue an RFP to redevelop the Colt building without the guidance of an overall development plan. Under the new participatory planning guidelines passed by the board last Monday (at midnight and, ironically, with almost no public input), there will be a 10-step process required to write the RFP and review the submissions, including three public meetings.

Given the NLP trustees’ proven preference to listen only to a select few of their political supporters on this matter, one wonders whether such a lengthy process will indeed be “open” to those whose views may run counter to the NLP trustees’ preferred outcomes.

That said, we urge the many Oak Parkers who have rallied around the citizen committee’s plan for downtown Oak Park to continue to try to bring the voice of reason to this process and to this board.

Jon Hale
Forum Oak Park

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