Oak Park is adding up the bill for how much it cost to hold 60 hours of hearings on installing lights at the local high school. And the total is … $20,000. And that’s just for the Oak Park Plan Commission hearings.
That’s how much taxpayers paid to have a court reporter type and transcribe testimony from some 16 plan commission meetings over a span of six months. The hearings were held to decide whether Oak Park and River Forest High School should be allowed to install lights at its stadium.
The plan commission made its decision March 5, voting 4-3 in favor of the lights application, one vote short of a recommendation. This came after the Zoning Board of Appeals had already spent many hours considering lights at the high school over a period of months, culminating in a 3-3 vote, failing to approve the application.
Because of a change to zoning board rules in 2004, an applicant must pay for any costs tallied during those hearings. But rules are different for the Oak Park Plan Commission, and the village is paying in this case, said Village Planner Craig Failor.
“As far as I can tell, it’s been the policy of the village to pay for the recorder and transcripts,” Failor said.
Oak Park doesn’t ask for transcripts for every plan commission hearing, just controversial ones such as the lights application.
Failor estimated that the court reporter was paid $85 an hour and charged about $6 to transcribe each page. With an average of 150 pages for each meeting, Failor said about 2,400 pages were printed from the hearings.
In his totals, Failor also included the plan commission’s last meeting on the lights, scheduled for April 16, when commissioners will discuss the “findings of fact” from the hearings. The village board is scheduled to consider the plan commission’s ruling on May 18.
Oak Park is considering changing its rules to require future plan commission applicants to pay for court reporters. That’s a common practice in most communities, Failor said.
“There’s no issue here; we’re not going to ask anybody to pay for it for us, but in the future I think we need to look at who’s actually footing the bill for that,” Failor said.