Tom Barwin is correct to state that the proposed Sertus project has been thoroughly vetted. [Setting the record straight on Lake and Forest, Viewpoints, Feb. 3]

It was thoroughly vetted by the citizens of Oak Park, not the plan commissioners. The plan commission listened to months of hearings, cross examinations and testimony, which culminated in less than three hours of deliberations where many of the commissioners ignored Oak Park laws. Their deliberations focused more on a last-minute letter, which was sent to them by David Pope justifying the project, than the facts that were revealed in cross examination and testimony. It is obvious that the citizens of Oak Park are more knowledgeable of the planned-development ordinance than the commissioners who are charged with protecting Oak Park’s character.

Mr. Barwin now finds it necessary to set the record straight, even though no one from the village board as co-applicant was at the plan commission hearings to set the record straight. Barwin’s comments contradict much of what was revealed in the plan commission hearings, such as that he “hopes” a brand-name hotel will be built.

This raises the question of what will happen to the land that Oak Park is giving Sertus to build the hotel, for it states in Section 6.03 of the redevelopment agreement that “recognizing that but for the contribution of the property to the development, construction of the hotel parcel would not be viable.” No where in the agreement does it state that Sertus will reimburse Oak Park for the cost of the land if a hotel is not built.

The fact of the matter is that Oak Park is giving Sertus a $4.25 million land subsidy to build a hotel, a $1.167 million subsidy to purchase the developer’s land (Exhibit C of the agreement), and a $500,000 “operating assistance” subsidy to the hotel operator (Section 5.07 of the agreement) from the TIF fund, which comes from property taxes. These are subsidies, though the village board and Barwin would like us to think otherwise.

In 2002, the village board commissioned a study, which stated that the garage at the corner of Forest and Lake has a useful life of more than 15 years. If the garage now needs to be replaced, as the village board claims, it would then seem that the village intentionally let a garage deteriorate.

Three years ago, Whiteco was considered one of the single-most important community development ventures proposed for Oak Park. Much has changed in three years. The only retail at Whiteco is a Trader Joe’s, the apartments have approximately 50 percent occupancy, the townhouses sit dark with no buyers in sight, and Villager Foods has closed its doors thanks in part to the taxpayer-subsidized Trader Joe’s. Now it is Sertus’s turn to prove once again that the Oak Park village board members are experts in taxpayer-subsidized projects that depress property values and destroy established businesses. This is definitely something Mr. Barwin should feel optimistic about.

David Barsotti has lived in Oak Park for 13 years. He is a project manager with a background in economics who says he has read the Sertus redevelopment agreement and application.

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