Though their projected timelines have been proven wrong in the now two year negotiation process, West Cook YMCA officials are again predicting that an agreement to purchase 7.7 acres from the village is imminent.
Following a recent meeting between Forest Park officials and YMCA representatives, the chairman of the non-profit’s board of directors said he would expect the village council to take action on a purchase and sale agreement at either of the council’s next two meetings on Sept. 24 or Oct. 8. Chairman James Lencioni said haggling over land use covenants, buy back agreements and other contractual clauses has been resolved and the YMCA is poised to take ownership of the land and begin fundraising for a $19 million facility.
“I think we’re very close to having a contract here,” Lencioni said. “The attorneys have worked out the details.”
YMCA President Scott Gaalaas agreed with Lencioni’s forecast, and said he’s optimistic that a recent rewrite of the proposed agreement will be accepted by the village.
In Forest Park, however, the outlook isn’t as bright.
Since 2005 the village and the YMCA have been discussing the sale of nearly eight acres situated off Madison Street, adjacent to the Altenheim facility. The YMCA has proposed a sprawling 65,000-square foot complex that will include two indoor swimming pools, indoor track and basketball courts, in addition to outdoor amenities. In January the parties agreed to a $4.3 million price tag for the land, but nine months later the deal has not been closed.
Village Administrator Mike Sturino confirmed that a revised contract is under review and said it’s possible the agreement could go before the council on Sept. 24. But the village has been down this road before, Sturino said, and council members tabled a vote on the contract in July. Since then, the pending agreement has been discussed only behind closed doors.
“The agreement has consistently been on the draft agenda for several months,” Sturino said, but is usually pulled at the last minute, often because the arrangements discussed in negotiations aren’t making their way into the contract language.
Commissioner Mark Hosty echoed that sentiment and said it seems each time a verbal agreement is reached it gets lost in translation. Earlier this summer Hosty criticized attorneys on both sides of the table for making the process overly complicated.
On the other side of the table, Gaalaas expressed a similar concern about the role that attorneys have played in the process.
“When you bring in all these lawyers that say ‘what if’ … that’s when these things get slowed down,” Gaalaas said.
Commissioners Martin Tellalian and Mike Curry outlined what they said are the council’s primary concerns. Should the YMCA fail to construct a new facility, the village is looking for a guarantee that it will have the right of first refusal to purchase the land. Also, because the village has agreed to sell the 7.7 acres at 80 percent of its appraised market value, the same courtesy should be extended by the YMCA.
In addition, both commissioners are eager to see what sort of benefit can be extended to the residents of Forest Park for serving as the host community. Because the YMCA is a non-profit, there will be no property tax revenue paid to the village. Tellalian noted that the council’s decision to sell the land below market value–a decision he disagrees with–is another reason taxpayers should expect something in return.
“They’re unable to come down to concrete language that shows what use rights residents of Forest Park would get for offering this discount,” Tellalian said.
The full council has not yet reviewed the latest round of changes to the contract, Sturino said. Those commissioners contacted for this story confirmed they are not familiar with the most recent draft.
Nonetheless, Curry suggested that negotiations may be reaching a point where a tangible deadline needs to be imposed. He is not yet willing to put that idea to a vote, but argued that while these talks continue a village asset remains in limbo.
“It’s absurd and ridiculous really that the YMCA would hold us hostage for two years with this land,” Curry said.