Oak Lawn’s Mayor and Board of Trustees appear poised to drop as many as 22 multi-family units into a proposed parking lot at Advocate Medical Group’s Beatty Property Development despite opposition from neighbors, one Trustee and perhaps, Advocate Medical Group.
Six different items on tomorrow night’s regular board meeting, refer to the proposed development. A condition regarding multi-family housing for the development was orally added by the village at the Planning and Development Commission meeting as the meeting came to an end.
The condition states:
Petitioner agrees to continue working in good faith with the Village to identify and agree upon alternative uses for certain portions of the property and if mutally acceptable between Petitioner and the Village, complete a fully executed Redevelopment Agreement consistent with the 95th Street Corridor Plan on the west parcel….
The west parcel is presently configured for parking in the Advocate plan. The “west parcel” refers to the land that is west of 52nd Avenue at the development along 96th street. The Advocate building would be placed on the current Permacor building footprint, which is on the far east side of 52nd Avenue, abutting the Metra parking garage and the condo building.
At a meeting called by Mayor Sandra Bury prior to her Planning and Development Commission Board’s review of the plan Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen referred to multi-family structures as a way to create a buffer for the residents in the area. That buffer reportedly would have been built along 96th Street, which is where the proposed development is located.
Bury said at that time that there was a lot of discussion among the Trustees about creating a residential buffer between the building and the parking lot. Deetjen described the development as “low density”. Bury claimed that the Trustees have been having discussions about the project although a review of minutes of village meetings for the last three months did not uncover even one such discussion, leading to the possible conclusion that the matter was discussed “illegally” in closed session or in secret meetings. One attorney versed in municipal law, that asked not to be named, said it would be a violation of the Open Meetings Act to have such discussions in executive session. He agreed that any such discussion should have been in an open meeting by law.
Bury and Deetjen also spoke about a plan to build the townhouses on the parking lot parcel west of 52nd Avenue on Beatty’s property. Neither plan had any vocal support from residents in the area with anyone speaking about multi-family housing expressing opposition.
Trustee Robert Streit, who represents the area, said at the time that he would only support townhouses as a buffer, and only on 96th street, if the residents would agree. He said that he had doubts about the idea and also noted that the west parcel idea didn’t create any buffer for the residents.
Nonetheless, Oak Lawn’s Planning and Development Commission (PDC) unanimously but conditionally approved the Advocate Medical Group’s proposal for the development of a 58,400 Square foot, two story building to built on the east side of 52nd Avenue, with parking on both sides of that street. That conditional approval was detailed in a story in the Oak Lawn Leaf with the Leaf reporting exclusively that one of the conditions was the concept of adding townhomes to the development.
The Advocate Medical Group plan includes physician’s offices, labs, imaging, a pharmacy and an immediate care facility. What it doesn’t include is a plan for townhouses that are being pushed for by Mayor Sandra Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen.
In the waning hours of the Planning and Development Commission Meeting, the board added the condition of townhouses.
Bury provided a slide that she said depicted quality townhouses she found on an internet search for townhouses in Chicago. Village Manager Larry Deetjen said there would be 18 to 22 units. Deetjen said that the concept of such a development was tested with local realtors who he did not name. However, he said that the realtors told the village staff members that there was “a passionate need for additional quality housing and that they didn’t want to compete with the condominium market”. He didn’t provide any documentation to the neighborhood residents or even the PDC members.
The idea that there is a market for any multi-family housing in Oak Lawn has been dismissed by realtors contacted by the Oak Lawn Leaf. In fact, in one of the developments, with 70 units, only 22 are owner occupied. The remaining units are rented out or remain unoccupied. Sources within that condo association have provided numbers of train commuters at only 12. One company, owns 16 units that it purchased from the builder in January of 2014.
Two other developments near the train report the same problems with many of the original units purchased by corporate speculators and political insiders that hoped to double their money during the real estate boom. Instead, the market never materialized and the condos have become rentals or in some cases losses for the owners.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen recently insisted to a crowded room that the administration had spoken with several realtors, who he did not name, who insisted that the market for townhouses in the area would be strong. However, multi-unit properties currently available in the village are at approximately 161. Recent sales throughout the village, including one in the center of town for $209,000 have ranged from $37,500 to $209,000.
One Oak Lawn realtor, who requested anonymity said that there are rentals available in those buildings by the Metra Station. The realtor said the market for any new multi-family buildings in Oak Lawn is “virtually non-existent”. The realtor also said that the photos of townhouses provided by Bury at a recent meeting would not resemble anything built in Oak Lawn. “She took photos off the internet of hot Chicago areas like Wrigleyville and somehow wants residents to think Oak lawn is the same market when it just is not,” the realtor stated.
The Village of Oak Lawn’s taxpayer funded newspaper, the Oak Lawn Matters, featured a front page story this past weekend to every home claiming the overall housing market in Oak Lawn had rebounded. No statistics were sighted to support the claim.
In addition to the various ordinances and approvals for the development concept, the village will also be hiring a Tax Increment Financing Consultant on Tuesday for the purpose of extending the current TIF and providing advice.
The relative quickness of the process and the failure to include the public in meaningful discussions may have residents confused. Bury had originally called a meeting to procure opinions from the residents but despite negative reactions, the administration has continued with its plan for multi-family housing.
As reported in the Oak Lawn Leaf previously, Streit has reportedly contacted the Village Manager asking that he set a date for the residents to meet with Advocate to provide real input. The Bury meeting was scheduled for that purpose but it was used by Bury and Deetjen to present their ideas while never discussing the residents’ concerns. Deetjen has reportedly told Streit that no additional meeting will be held between the public, village and Advocate.
The administration continues to have discussions with Advocate but the public has not been invited to any meetings.