Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb made a true statement Monday night when he said of Rush Oak Park, “we love having the hospital in Oak Park.”
But loving the hospital does not make it impossible to hold it accountable to the village and to its residential neighbors. The village board did not do that Monday night.
Rather, the village board OK’d a parking garage 10 feet taller than recommended by the Plan Commission and it granted “hospital” zoning to a stretch of Rush-owned properties on Maple Avenue without ever demanding to know just what the health system intends to do with that property.
We get it. We love Rush Oak Park, too. It is a great community hospital owned by a great teaching hospital just down the Ike. It is making key investments in Oak Park, most recently constructing a state-of-the-art ER. It is a large employer. It is the largest property taxpayer in the village.
But it has, over decades, been an arrogant neighbor to the residential community south of Madison into which it continues to burrow. Inevitably, there will be tension between a growing hospital and people trying to protect their once quiet neighborhood. The village government, with its control over zoning, ought to be the third-party seeking to balance the legitimate interests of the hospital and neighbors. Instead, and again, over decades, it seems as if the village’s thumb is on the side of the hospital.
Village government does not push back on hospital plans. Village government does not demand that the Rush system cough up a master planning document that certainly must exist.
Clearly Rush Oak Park has come back from a very shaky past in the years before Big Rush became involved. The continuing investments in the Oak Park campus reflect its strategic importance to the Rush system. So they are not going anywhere.
And they don’t need to get everything they ask for.