The Oak Lawn Leaf has learned that the Village of Oak Lawn has been suggesting to businesses wishing to expand that it could purchase “air rights” of adjoining property to expand existing businesses.
Twice within the last two months, sources have confirmed that Oak Lawn’s Village Manager Larry Deetjen, has suggested that businesses purchase village property or neighboring private properties’ air rights. In one instance, the property in question is a parking lot, owned by the Village of Oak Lawn located behind Deja Brew, a popular local restaurant and pub. Deetjen has reportedly also suggested to Trustees that the property’s air rights could be sold.
According to BusinessDictionary.com, air rights refer to the “right to control, occupy, or use the vertical space (air space) above a property, subject to necessary and reasonable use by neighbor(s) and others (such as aircraft)”. Deetjen has reportedly insisted to some of the Village’s Trustees that the air rights sale of the parking lot would be a unique development for a business in Oak Lawn, which has very little parking in commercial strips such as 95th Street.
Generally, a purchaser of property acquires the air rights along with the land. According to the American Society of Planning Officials, the benefits to the municipality are twofold. First, air rights over publicly owned facilities, such as streets, expressways and parking lots, may be sold or leased. Providence, Rhode Island, entered into a contract with a private parking firm to build an elevated parking deck over a city street. The City shares in the gross receipts of the operation, up to 52 per cent of all revenue over $150,000, and receives title to the deck after the expiration of the 25-year lease. Another example, the Santa Cruz, California, development, includes the sale of air rights for commercial development over city-owned parking lots. Secondly, land used for a public purpose is not permanently lost to the tax rolls. This is especially true for public rights-of-way that occupy an increasing share of the urban land surface, as well as rapid transit systems, public parking lots, and drainage channels.
In Illinois, the Local Government Air Rights Act allows the sale of air rights by public entities such as the village. The parking lot being discussed was once considered the site of a multiple story apartment building until opposition for the plan killed the building. At this time, no use has been suggested for the development and no buyers have come forward with any plan for purchasing or leasing air rights of the property in question or any other properties.
Prior to the last Oak Lawn Mayoral election, a developer proposed a 13 story apartment complex, for the nearby Beatty Lumber site, that was reportedly nixed by Village Trustee Robert Streit.