The Oak Lawn Village Board of Trustees, at its most recent meeting, quietly opposed an administration proposal to allow a used car dealer to set up shop in Oak Lawn.
The proposed dealership would have been located at 4871 W. 95th Street, in a commercial retail store, if the board had approved a “special use permit” and “parking variation”.
The administration had brought the idea forward at the Planning and Development Commission Meeting on November 21, 2016 with Village Manager Larry Deetjen appearing at the meeting and testifying on behalf of the owner, Mohamed Kahled.
According to the minutes of the meeting, Deetjen spoke to the the Planning and Development Commission members, who had approved it unanimously:
Mr. Deetjen commented that the current car dealers in Oak Lawn use the internet on a regular basis to purchase cars. He expressed that it is a whole new world. Mr. Deetjen said that he has had some discussions with the existing Oak Lawn car dealerships to make sure that the proposed business would not be direct competition for them. He added that the petitioner is not doing anything more than displaying vehicles. He expressed that the petitioner will not clean, maintain, service or use outdoor parking for his inventory. Mr. Deetjen said the use will be a retail function used by customers that are looking for high end cars on a regular basis. Mr. Deetjen said that he is intrigued by the concept and hopes that it will work in Oak Lawn.
The Oak Lawn Leaf was the only media outlet to report the news that the administration had broken longstanding protocol in Oak Lawn pushing for a used car dealership. The village’s code of ordinance prohibits the sale of used cars unless it is part of a new car dealership. According to long serving employees and officials in the village, the provision was instituted many years ago in the Ernie Kolb administration for the purpose of preventing Oak Lawn from becoming a strip of used car dealerships like Western Avenue in Chicago.
After the Oak Lawn Leaf story, the Village Board of Trustees met on December 13th to consider the administration’s proposal. Despite Deetjen’s claim that there had been “discussions with the existing Oak Lawn car dealerships” the Trustees apparently did not believe the administration with one Trustee revealing that he had conversations with various car dealers and other Trustees.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak said he personally spoke with Frank Mancari, Ed Napelton, and the Webb Group. He said that Trustee Vorderer spoke with the Haggerty dealership. Olejniczak said that Trustees had also talked to “the Hyundai Group, the Volkswagen Group”. He cited the history of Oak Lawn and the fact the used car dealership would compete with those businesses in announcing his opposition to the administration’s proposal.
Trustee Robert Streit, in whose District the dealership would have operated, noted that Oak Lawn has had a longstanding policy against allowing used car dealerships. Streit said he didn’t support the administration’s plan to change the policy because allowing one used car dealership will end up in allowing many more.
Trustee Terry Vorderer said that the car dealerships have been the “backbone” of the village’s sale tax revenue for many years. He said, “I agree, well spoken Trustee Streit and Trustee Alex Olejniczak. They deserve our respect and a negative vote on this issue.”
Trustee Michael Carberry said that he wished the business well even though it wasn’t a good fit for the village.
None of the Trustees asked Deetjen why the conversations he allegedly had with car dealers were totally different than the opposition they faced in discussing the issue of a used car dealership in town.
Mayor Sandra Bury asked the owner if he wished to speak but Mohamad Kahled did not make any statement. He had previously spoken at the Planning and Development Commission meeting. At that meeting, Kahled indicated that he would like to open a high end dealership and was requesting a Special Use Permit to allow the sale of used cars. He explained that his inventory would be late model cars. He expressed that the business will operate with an experienced staff and by appointment only, according to the minutes.
After the Oak Lawn Leaf printed the original story, one of Mayor Bury’s appointee and campaign spokesman, Andy Skoundrianous, attacked the Oak Lawn Leaf regarding the story arguing in favor of the used car dealership.