Oak Park’s village board voted June 15 to postpone discussion of the 435 Madison St. apartment complex proposal until a later date to give the development company more time to communicate with neighbors regarding changes made to the design. Tabling discussion was requested by Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb.
“On Monday, I am going to ask the village board to table the 435 Madison proposal in order to give the neighbors an opportunity to review the updated plan,” the mayor told Wednesday Journal last Friday.
The Plan Commission voted unanimously against sending a positive recommendation for the plan to the village board on March 5; the commission was unhappy with the size of the proposed building and its proximity to the Gunderson Historic District.
Applicant Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group (MAREG) has since altered its plans for the building, based on plan commission comments made March 5.
The newest plans for the development are attached to the agenda from the June 15 meeting, which is available on the village of Oak Park website.
Abu-Taleb asked that the board revisit the subject sometime in July.
Trustee Susan Buchanan defended the board against accusations from the public that the board had engaged in illegal activities regarding the 435 Madison St. proposal.
“I just want to also address some of the emails that accused us of doing backdoor dealings with the developer,” she said.
Buchanan noted she was “kind of a little bit on the warpath” with Facebook because of “this type of rumor mongering,” which she called “ridiculous and offensive.”
“I just want to clarify for everyone who accused us that you are incorrect and that was offensive to me,” Buchanan said. “We are not even allowed to talk to the developers.”
Trustee Deno Andrews said accusations “come with the territory” of being a member of the village board.
“Three years later, we are still accused of taking bribes for voting on Albion,” said Andrews of the high-rise apartment building now constructed at Lake and Forest.
“It comes with the territory,” he repeated. “It’s sad but true.”
Andrews agreed with Buchanan saying it was “upsetting,” “sad” and “offensive.”
Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla thought it was “kind of laughable that we’re finding things offensive.”
“It shouldn’t be offensive because it should indicate to us that there has been a communication gap between the developer, [Oak Park Economic Development Corporation] and the community,” said Walker-Peddakotla. “I agree with the decision to table this because we need to give more time for that conversation to happen.”
Walker-Peddakotla added, “The public has a right to be angry about this and to say whatever the heck they want about it, honestly. And I’m glad that we actually listened to them in this case.”
She also said that she hoped the developer “did the right thing” and reaches out to the community to get their feedback on the revised design plan.
The board voted unanimously to shelve the discussion.
“My hopes in tabling this proposal are that the developer may identify a forum to discuss the revised plan with interested neighbors, and that those neighbors will retain an open mind on this proposal,” Abu-Taleb told Wednesday Journal. “As we work toward an agreeable solution, I hope we will not lose sight of the fact that this proposal would provide significant funds for affordable housing, solar-powered electricity, and an opportunity to continue the revitalization of Madison Street.”