Things are getting better around Oak Park’s last remaining industrial company, but neighbors would like to see more improvements.
Residents in the southwest corner of Oak Park met, in what is becoming an annual tradition, with local cement and concrete company H.J. Mohr & Sons last Thursday. While they admit conditions are improving around the plant, neighbors say more work needs to be done.
“There’s been some progress, but it seems to be very spotty,” said Jim Thompson, neighbor and member of the South Oak Park Community Council. “We’ve already passed many of the deadlines.”
Mohr signed an agreement with the Village of Oak Park in 2005, requiring the company to make various changes to its business. Those included jack-hammering only during certain hours, landscaping, and sprucing up various parts of their property.
Holding annual meetings with neighbors was another part of the agreement. And a couple a residents, representatives from Mohr, and Oak Park officials met Thursday at the Oak Park Conservatory.
Thompson brought a list of issues neighbors still want Mohr to address-specifically, the painting of a couple of walls around the property, the removal of metal cables poking out of one wall, and landscaping around a property at 1105 W. Garfield St.
Neighbors say Mohr is well past the deadline on when it was to complete various improvements, and urged Oak Park to take action against the company.
“When is the village going to start treating commercial properties the same way they treat residential?” said neighbor Jim Peters.
The Mohr family said they’re trying to keep up with the various requests. However, with rising gas prices and a sagging economy, they can only stretch funds so far.
“We can’t keep up with all the deadlines that are being placed on us,” said Marlene Mohr, who works for the company. “We also deliver concrete, and we do have a business to run.”
“There’s a recession,” said owner Dolly Mohr. “We’re lucky we’re paying our bills. … Times have changed. We don’t have the money to do these things; we can’t afford this.”
“It’s irrelevant,” Peters said. “That’s what the agreement was in 2005.”
The Mohrs say they’ve received offers to buy the family business, which has operated in Oak Park since 1893. However, they aren’t interested in selling, Dolly Mohr said. They’re also looking to demolish the property at 1105 Garfield.
Village Attorney Ray Heise said he hopes to sit down with the Mohrs this week to work out a calendar of when the improvements could be completed. Only a few items remain to be addressed, like straightening and painting a bright yellow wall along an alley behind part of the property, planting vines and trees and removing some shrubs.
Heise said the village hasn’t yet had to fine Mohr under the agreement.
“I will be very disappointed if the village ends up having to institute some enforcement action, but I don’t think that’s going to be necessary,” he said. “They have a pretty good history here of cooperating.”
The 2005 agreement has addressed many concerns in the neighborhood, Heise said, like dust, noise, and the plant’s appearance.
“This agreement, over time, has gone very well, and I want to see it finished,” he said. “We’re so close, and I just want to finish.”