Despite providing an impassioned plea before the Oak Lawn Village Planning and Development Commission on behalf of residents, Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist 2) sat silently during a village board meeting in which his fellow board members voted 4-2 in favor of granting two variances to a home builder despite opposition from neighbors, who complained about flooding in the area.
Olejniczak argued at a recent Planning and Development Commission meeting that the members should respect what the people of District 2 were asking in denying the petition for a Palos Park builder who sought a subdivision of the lot at 5708 w. 90th Place to build two homes on lots less than the required fifty foot frontage.
However, at the Village Board meeting, resident Lorraine Shimkus, who lives next door to the proposed subdivision, was left to make the only argument the board heard regarding the plans. Shimkus, who represented the other homeowners in the area, who each signed a petition, addressed the board during the public comment section of the meeting.
Shimkus said that she was asking the Trustees to “do the right thing and enforce the codes of our village.” She said that the residents must have confidence that the codes will be enforced by the village.
Shimkus, who has lived in her home for over 35 years, said that the proposed lot variation will cause more flooding issues on the existing lot and on the adjoining lots and down the block. Shimkus said that she was “surprised to learn that some Trustees didn’t think flooding in our area was a problem”.
Shimkus noted that according to the MWRD the volume and intensity of Oak Lawn’s rain storms have increased. Shimkus noted, “Mayor (Sandra) Bury just told the President of the MWRD that flooding is a continuing problem in Oak Lawn and that we now get 100 year rain storms every six months.”
Shimkus offered alternatives to the subdivision including an offer to purchase part of the lot next door. She said that an Oak Lawn builder had offered to build one home on the remaining 75 foot lot. None of the Trustees spoke during or after her comments although Bury urged her to finish her comments as she passed Bury’s three minute time limit.
When Trustees did vote, the subdivision was approved by a 4-2 vote with Olejniczak and Trustee Robert Streit (Dist. 3) voting against the subdivision. Olejniczak did not speak on the issue at the Village Board meeting although he had told Planning and Development Commissioners that the area was prone to flooding in urging them to reject the subdivision. He also told the commissioners that approving such subdivisions would have a negative impact on the neighborhood. He made neither argument to his fellow Trustees.
A village official, who asked not to be identified, said that Olejniczak did not fight at the village board level for the residents’ position. “He couldn’t get even one of his allies to vote with him on an issue as important as flooding,” said the official. The official said that Olejniczak was “half-heartedly” opposing the subdivision in order to gain favor with the residents. “It was a wink and a nod and he didn’t try to persuade anyone,” said the official.
Trustee Streit confirmed that Olejniczak did not reach out to him to support his position. “I never heard from Alex but I don’t know if he contacted anyone else,” said Streit.
Flooding has been a major issue in Oak Lawn with various attempts being made to reduce the incidents. Shimkus said that she is not an engineer but she knows that flooding is a problem in Oak Lawn. Oak Lawn’s Economic Development consultant, Steve Radice, told the Planning and Development Commission that he is currently trying to capture every vacant home in Oak Lawn and that he hopes builders will tear down homes and build new homes on lots.