We, the Vision Community Action (VCA) Village Trustee candidates, believe that Oak Park has been and should remain primarily residential. In earlier articles, we’ve explained that enough new development to provide significant property tax relief would, in our opinion, destroy the neighborhood character that’s made Oak Park such an attractive place to live.
More Oak Parkers have “voted with their feet” by moving here or staying here in the face of high taxes and increasing congestion than regularly vote in village elections. We believe the interests and desires of current residents take clear precedence over developers’ and so-called experts’ arguments that Oak Park would be better if every parcel of land were developed to its “highest and best use” according to their bottom line analyses. We believe that village government should strive to make Oak Park what residents who’ve taken it so far for so long want instead of what presumed regional market forces allegedly dictate.
In the 1960s, regional market forces signaled clearly that the rampant disinvestment and abandonment then ravaging the Austin community to our east was inevitable here. Courageous, imaginative Oak Parkers rose against these forces and made it possible for us to enjoy today’s pleasant, beautiful village and be fussy about the kind of development we want.
While some say that our built heritage is insignificant to Oak Park’s success, we think it’s of great importance and can only become more valuable as other places like Oak Park vanish.
To protect our neighborhoods, we pledge to:
– Produce “character plans,” through real participatory processes, defining what residents want and don’t want for all neighborhoods. We will seek imaginative ways to encourage public participation and truly respect and honor public opinion.
– Assemble these character plans into a more detailed replacement for the 1990 Comprehensive Plan, laying out a new vision for each Oak Park neighborhood, for residents and developers alike.
– Change zoning village-wide to reflect the new comprehensive plan. The recent downzoning in R6 and R7 areas is a good start, but still advocates replacing significant single-family areas with more density. We’d more aggressively protect single-family homes.
– Strictly limit Planned Development zoning allowances to ensure that zoning limitations aren’t just starting points for developer negotiations.
– Give highest priority to enhancing surrounding residential neighborhoods when considering most commercial development.
– Further discourage residential teardowns in order to maintain affordable housing and neighborhood ambience. We believe it’s easier and cheaper to keep existing affordable housing than to subsidize affordable units in new, “upscale” buildings.
– Consider establishing new local historic districts or extending current ones to further protect residential neighborhoods. We’d actively help property owners receive preservation tax benefits and look for ways to assist them in repairing and remodeling in historically sensitive ways.
We believe these and similar actions will allow healthy growth in property values without pricing most residents out of town and allow healthy business growth without damaging neighborhoods for short-term profit.
Annabel Abraham, Jim Balanoff, Robert Milstein, Gary Schwab
Vision Community Action village trustee candidates