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The outcome is a good one. Fenwick High School has been told that its interest in purchasing a large portion of the village's Altenheim property is now on hold pending a legitimate survey of Forest Parkers to gauge what citizens want to see happen with this precious open space.
That was the message that Mayor Anthony Calderone reports he delivered to a representative of the Oak Park-based Catholic high school during a meeting two weeks ago. The Fenwick rep sought the meeting with Calderone to get a response to a formal letter of intent the school had finally coughed up in mid-May laying out its interest in buying land to build athletic facilities for the school.
We applaud Calderone's response to Fenwick's renewed ardor for the site. While the school has been dawdling, a change in attitude about the best use of the open space has been taking root in town. They're not making multi-acre open spaces in Forest Park anymore and a growing number of people inside village hall and outside have begun contemplating options that focus on Forest Park holding this property and gradually developing it into permanent recreational uses for residents.
This is an idea we'd like to see thoroughly explored and the resident survey is one way to start that process.
While we appreciate Calderone's direct response to Fenwick, we again castigate the mayor for the cloak of secrecy on this and other issues.
His straightforward declaration of his conversation with Fenwick is only on our front page today because the Review obtained a copy of Fenwick's letter and we were told of the closed door meeting between the mayor and the school. And it assuredly wasn't Calderone who spilled the beans.
Residents contemplating the future of this land need to know that in its initial expression of real interest in the Altenheim site that Fenwick is tossing out low-ball real estate appraisals and expensive demands that the village clear old buildings on the property and take on the costs of any environmental remediation. Sure this is the first salvo in a negotiation. We get that.
The point is that based on the $3 million price paid for this land 10 years back, the real estate collapse and the realities of selling to a non-profit that any deal with Fenwick isn't going to be a financial bonanza for Forest Park. That makes the option of controlling the site long-term and investing in it all the more appealing.
That Calderone was christened as the one and only village official who can ever negotiate a deal on the Altenheim reflects the desire to aggregate all power to the mayor and to isolate other duly elected village officials Ð specifically those officials who do not kowtow to Calderone.
The mayor can try to hold all the cards to his chest. It isn't working at the moment. And so far that has worked to the advantage of Forest Parkers.
We're still looking for contributing bloggers to our nifty new website which will debut within the next month or so. Budget vacations, job-hunting tips, nature walks, hobbies - if you are passionate about it, and local, shoot us an email. Jlotus@Forestparkreview.com