Public Watchdog.org

City Needs Public Input On NICOR Gas Site

10.15.09

The last big piece of land the City sold was the reservoir block, which went to PRC for the Uptown development in what some consider to have been a “sweetheart” deal – if for no other reason than the City, amazingly enough, never got an MAI appraisal in an attempt to establish its fair market value before selling it.

Which should cause Park Ridge taxpayers at least a bit of concern over the article in yesterday’s Park Ridge Journal that the City is looking to sell the NICOR property at Greenwood and Elm now that NICOR’s lease is ending. (“Nicor Gas Lot Will Soon Be Up For Sale,” Oct. 14)

The Journal reports that the City has obtained “a three-level appraisal” for the former site of the City’s Public Works Dept. garage: $2.1 million if used for multi-family residential, $1.8 million if used for industrial, and from $1.6 to $1.8 million for single-family residential, all of which could be affected by whether or not there are any significant soil contamination issues.

Unfortunately, the Journal article does not identify who did this appraisal, and what his/her/its qualifications are.  We understand, however, that the appraiser was Marous & Company, which has a top-flight reputation and is Park Ridge-based – so we will assume it’s reliable until proven otherwise.

But what we find troubling is the quote from City Mgr. Jim Hock: “You may decide to take less cash from the sale of the property if you get the developer that you know is going to follow through with what you want to see on the property.”

Gee, Jim, do you mean a multi-family residential developer like Andrew Koglin’s PRC?  Or a multi-family residential developer like Bruce Adreani’s Norwood Builders?

We don’t think the City has any business whatsoever “favoring” any particular developer.  That’s a sure way of encouraging sweetheart deals with insiders, which may be the typical way things are done here in Illinois but which also is one of the main reasons our state, county and City governments are in the financial messes they’re in.

The City has codes and ordinances that were enacted to deal with these kinds of issues irrespective of who the developer may be – so long as they are ENFORCED.   As we have seen over the past few years, however, lack of enforcement and the granting of variances seem to be as much the rule as the exception.

We believe that before the City gets any further along on this matter, it should hold a couple of well-publicized public hearings to let the residents speak for the record about what THEY would like to see constructed on that site – if anything – and why.  Concerns about density and the demands on our already-hobbled infrastructure should get a full airing and debate before any decision about this site is made.

Transparent and accountable government demands nothing less.

2 comments so far

You have rightfully called for public hearings on how the land is to be used. I believe Alderman DiPietro said just that at the Council meeting last Monday. Let’s hope it happens.

Now that another parcel of real estate is in play in Park Ridge which the City is interested in, do you think he council will accept the amendments to the Zoning Ordinance passed by Planning and Zoning, which don’t allow review of requests that are denied by P&Z, or do you think this will be another excuse for them to give themselves the final say on amendments so they can be sure when a developer they like comes along, P&Z does not get in the way? Just asking.



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