We would like to congratulate the Oak Park village board for its vote in favor of public participatory planning. Two of the VMA’s guiding principles speak to accountable and responsive government and the support of balanced and sensitive economic growth. We believe the vote Monday evening is a reflection of both.

We would also like to commend the board for the manner in which it took into consideration public input and the recommended amendments of Trustee Johnson. It was a fantastic opportunity to observe the board working together to draft a policy for the betterment of its citizens. It has been said that the actual work of deliberative bodies, such as our village board, is like watching sausage being made. It can be a messy process, but the end product tastes good. In this case, the end product was an even better product with the addition of a few more ingredients.

We also believe this policy has come none too soon. As was stated at the meeting, there is a perception that Oak Park is becoming hostile to developers. While trustees Baker and Milstein take exception to this perception, it is true that Oak Park has seen a 62-percent decrease in investment in Oak Park in the last three months, compared to the same months last year. While Trustee Baker indicates the gross number of permits issued has increased (which is correct, it has, but by just 7 percent), the dollar value represented by those permits is much smaller. We hope that Oak Park is not entering into a period similar to the 1960s where investors with large capital went elsewhere to invest.

There are some who say this is a good thing, but that begs the question, “Who will fund the Harrison Street, Madison Street, Down Town Oak Park (DTOP), Roosevelt Road, Chicago Avenue/Austin Boulevard, Lake Street/Austin Boulevard, and North Avenue citizen created master plans and redevelopments?” The current board approved two very small developments this past year but in reality no new or significant developments or redevelopments.

More troubling is the fact that there is nothing in the pipeline. Future property tax receipts will decrease, and increasing costs for the operation of our taxing bodies will continue to put pressure on the taxpayer.

We sincerely hope that the board will continue to allow the public to witness open government as critical decisions on pending and future planning and development issues such as the DTOP superblock are discussed and voted upon.

Bob Kane
VMA president

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