West Suburban Medical Center won village approval last week for rezoning and the vacation of a street needed to build a hotly contested emergency room on hospital property.

The Oak Park village board voted 5-1 on two measures needed for the new ER, with Trustee Robert Milstein casting the dissenting vote each time. The board is down to six members after former trustee Martha Brock’s Jan. 31 resignation.

As part of the approval, the village will require West Sub to resuscitate a home it owns at 329 N. Humphrey Ave. and lease it within a year, among other stipulations.

The list of stipulations was developed by Village Manager Tom Barwin and other staff members working with hospital representatives and involving feedback from neighbors. The stipulations became part of an agreement through which the village will turn over approximately 27,000 square feet of street and alley land to the hospital for $445,000.

The agreement was completed shortly before Thursday night’s special meeting of the village board. “These agreements are literally hot off the press,” Barwin said.

Neighborhood ire had subsided almost entirely by Thursday, with most of the neighbors addressing the board that evening taking construction of the ER as a fait accompli.

“I think there are reasonable solutions here,” said Lawrence Drumm, who lives on the 100 block of North Humphrey Avenue, across the street from the proposed expansion. “We just ask you to maintain as much of a buffer as possible.”

However, Trustee Milstein continued to fight the proposal, as did some neighbors.

“The added stipulations seem to be tokenism,” Milstein said. “Basically we’re asking [West Sub] to abide by the law and use common sense.” He said there were “many, many, many” more items that could have been added to the list.

Later in the meeting, though, when President David Pope gave the board a chance to add items to the list, Milstein did not have any suggestions. Reached by phone on Friday, Milstein said he decided the added stipulations would be better implemented through a master planning process required as part of the agreement.

“They absolutely were token,” said Jennifer Misiak, a resident of the 100 block of North Humphrey Avenue.

Misiak submitted a list of 33 requirements she proposed should be imposed on the hospital, including “Require Alternative Building Configuration Studies & ‘Internal’ Campus Orientation” and “Require Asbestos & Lead Paint Testing before any further Construction.”

The board had a lengthy discussion about whether its appraisal for the street and alley property had produced an accurate sale price. One appraisal was $500,000, while the second was $390,000. The village’s practice is to split the difference, resulting in the $445,000 sale price.

But appraising street property is an inexact science, the appraisers admitted. The actual value of the property is arrived at after a discount because, in reality, the land could not be used for anything other than to be tacked on to other properties.

Michael Grimes, who gave the higher appraisal, said he discounted his estimate by 50 percent. “Why? I couldn’t tell you exactly,” he told the board.

Bonnie Rossell said she discounted her estimate by 70 percent, a midpoint between what she said was an industry standard range of 65 percent to 75 percent.

Milstein argued that the hospital’s “need” for the land should have driven up the value of the land. “The hospital needs this land, and they’re getting it for a steal,” he said.

But Pope countered the need argument. He pointed out that the hospital had originally planned to leave Humphrey in place and build a bridge over the street to get patients into the main hospital building.

Trustees were concerned that the difference between the two appraisals was greater than 10 percent. In the past, the village has gotten a third estimate when appraisals are that divergent.

Village Atty. Ray Heise started to say that the village got a third estimate, but was interrupted by Milstein, who asked why information was “popping up” at the meeting that the board had not heard previously.

The argument ended without the amount of the third appraisal being divulged. In a later interview, Barwin said the appraisal, paid for by the hospital, was also for $390,000.

Trustees asked about neighbors’ request to route all ER traffic into the hospital campus via Erie Street. But Tim Doran, a traffic consultant, called the proposal “dangerous.” He said at the hospital’s busiest times, 400 pedestrians an hour and 300 vehicles an hour travel through the main West Sub corridor. He added that nearly 83 percent of the ER’s patients are walk-ins or drop-offs (rather than arriving by ambulance). To mix emergency vehicles-let alone drivers who might be frantically trying to drive a loved one to the ER-with pedestrians and other traffic in the hospital campus would “not be a good situation,” Doran said.

The agreement also requires village approval of the ER’s landscaping and lighting schemes to ensure they both reduce impact to the neighborhood. Trustee Ray Johnson suggested the village’s Community Design Commission be involved in that review process.

West Sub will be required to create and update triennially a 10-year master plan as part of the deal. That addresses neighbors’ fears that West Sub will make an unabated expansion into the neighborhood.

Although the property the new ER would be built on is now zoned H, which allows buildings as tall as 125 feet, the agreement with West Sub limits the height of the new ER to 32 feet. If the hospital wants to build higher, or build outside of the proposed ER’s footprint, it would need village approval.

The agreement also calls for a shrine to be built to commemorate the graystone two-flat at 209 N. Humphrey Ave. that was determined to be a contributing structure in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District. The shrine will include “a key representative facade element … along with a brass plaque identifying the style and year of construction of the structure and a plexiglass [sic] enclosed photo of the structure” and historic documentation and photos.

Not included in the stipulations were requests from the Oak Park/Austin Health Alliance, which called for “compassionate outreach to residents without insurance,” “adequate staffing” of the ER, and giving cab fare to discharged patients who don’t have a ride home.

“Those are conditions that stray rather far from the land use at hand,” Heise said, and therefore could not be included.

West Sub now needs state approval to continue with plans for the new ER.

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