Land sold on questionable appraisal

On Nov. 13, the village council voted to sell 7.77 acres of our Altenheim property to the YMCA for $4.3 million, which is $12.70 per square foot. I voted against the agreement which passed by a vote of 4 to 1. As Mayor Calderone stated after the vote, a super majority was required for passage which means that only two “no” votes would have stopped the sale. But try as I may, I could not convince any other council member to either table the discussion or vote against the sale.

First of all, I do not oppose the YMCA in principle. I am worried about the impact on traffic and the burden on our police and fire departments. But if the YMCA is built in Forest Park, I’m sure it will be a nice health club with many programs and activities for YMCA members. And currently, the Oak Park YMCA provides scholarships and subsidies to those in need of assistance. Annually, the value of the scholarships and subsidies given by the Oak Park YMCA is approximately $190,000 or just under 5 percent of their total revenue. The YMCA truly has a noble mission.

However, I strongly oppose the village of Forest Park’s very generous donation to the YMCA in the form of the discounted sale price of our property. Two appraisals were provided to the current village council. The first appraisal is dated Aug. 8, 2005, and estimated a value of $22 per square foot for 6 acres. This appraisal was revised on July 10, 2006, and estimated a value of 7.77 acres to be $5.3 million or $15.66 per square foot–a 29 percent reduction in less than one year. Although I have repeatedly asked our village administrator for all appraisal documentation, no documentation has been provided for the $4.6 million market value presented to the previous council on Jan. 8, 2007. The original August ’05 appraisal and a summary of the July ’06 revision were provided to the new council in July of this year. The complete revised appraisal from July ’06 was provided to the new council for the first time moments before the Nov. 13 meeting. In the end, the agreed selling price was $12.70 per square foot or $4.3 million. The appraised market value is important because state law prohibits the sale of public property at less than 80 percent of market value–at least for non home rule communities like Forest Park. Based on the revised appraisal of $5.3 million and the selling price of $4.3 million, Forest Park has agreed to a selling price equal to 81 percent of market value.

Personally, I think the market value is much higher than $5.3 million. The property across the street was purchased in January of 2005 for approximately $22 per square foot, which was also the original appraised market value for 6 acres of our property. The housing market is down but the selling price for houses in Forest Park, Oak Park, and River Forest has not gone down significantly since 2005. The price for the 7.77 acres would be $7.45 million if we could get $22 per square foot. But it’s hard to know the true market value when information is withheld or provided at the last minute.

I also strongly oppose the decision making process that led to this agreement with the YMCA.

The village did not market this property to see what other developments were feasible. It is true there are restrictive covenants placed on this property by the Altenheim, but the restrictive covenants do not allow a health club and the use by the YMCA must be approved by Altenheim. In fact, contrary to the statements in the Chicago Tribune attributed to Mayor Calderone, the restrictive covenants do not prevent residences but limit residential development to R-1 and R-2 zoning. If we are willing to try to negotiate with the Altenheim for a health club, why not try to negotiate with the Altenheim to allow other uses?

Absent a special use, at most I would have sought to sell two or three acres along Van Buren for town houses and single-family homes, and kept the rest for the village. Instead, a questionable appraisal was used to justify at least a $1 million discount to a YMCA with only 7 percent of its members living in Forest Park.

Fortunately, the sale to the YMCA is not a done deal. The YMCA must raise a significant amount of money to proceed. More importantly, the YMCA and the village of Forest Park must negotiate a “development and use agreement” which includes scheduling rights and utilization of the facilities for Forest Park. It may be too late to consider other alternatives but I will insist on use rights for Forest Park that are consistent with our generous donation to the YMCA. Let’s hope the rest of the council feels the same way.

Commissioner Marty Tellalian
Forest Park

Thanks for support

The 11th annual Golden Apple 5K Run held on Sunday Nov. 4 was a huge success in raising money for the Golden Apple Foundation. With the help of runners and volunteers as well as the citizens of Forest Park it was a very successful event. The race was successful not only monetarily but in bringing together runners and teachers striving for excellence.

We extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to the homeowners, neighbors and motorists along the race routes for their patience and understanding. Thank you for your cooperation.

We also thank the village of Forest Park Police Department for their continued support and management of the race route. Along with the many volunteers who acted as race marshals who helped runners and citizens move about the course.

We would be remiss if we did not thank the merchants and sponsors for their generosity and continued support of the Golden Apple 5K Run.

It was truly a team effort that led to the outstanding event and result for the Golden Apple Foundation and one that Forest Park can be proud of.

We will see you all next year.

Tim Kenny, race director
Oak Park

Pooling resources

After years of working side by side towards common goals, the board of directors of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Forest Park Main Street Redevelopment Association made a unified decision to merge by year’s end.

A natural progression in response to the continued growth of Forest Park’s business and residential community, the Chamber/Main Street merger allows for a stronger, more responsive organization that will serve members and the community more effectively with one voice, one focus and one mission.

The alliance also eliminates a duplication of efforts. With many Forest Park supporters attending multiple monthly meetings, and both organizations tapping the same pool of people and business owners for time, money and volunteers, streamlining the two organizations seemed an obvious solution.

The Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development will focus on business recruitment and retention, business advocacy, government relations, networking, member services and promotion.

For more information, please contact the chamber office at (708) 366-2543.

The board of directors of Forest Park Main Street and Forest Park Chamber of Commerce
Forest Park

A matter of safety

Let us hope that the new YMCA is better taken care of than the present Y in Oak Park.

Jean Heyes
Oak Park