Not since December 2006 when a public outcry beat back a proposal to pave over residential properties to make way for more parking along Madison Street has the village even mentioned a parking shortage. That could change at Monday’s council meeting.
A handful of Chamber of Commerce and Development members are expected to address Forest Park’s commissioners with a request that the village “take further action” and provide more parking. Specifically, the pro-business group is interested in learning what the municipality is doing to acquire new land, according to a Jan. 21 letter sent by the chamber to council members.
“We have concerns that the village is not pursuing properties that are available for sale,” the letter states. “We understand and concur that eminent domain should not be utilized for parking, but it appears there are viable sites on the market that are contiguous to existing, village-owned surface parking lots.”
The chamber’s executive director, Laurie Kokenes, said Friday she did not know specifically which parcels might be on the market, nor was she sure which parking lots they were adjacent to. The content of the letter was influenced by each of the group’s board members, said Kokenes, and individual members may have knowledge of those specifics.
Village Administrator Mike Sturino confirmed that the council does expect to hear from business owners on Feb. 25, but said he’s unsure of what direction the discussion might take. He emphasized that the village is not interested in pursuing eminent domain proceedings to acquire new land, as had been proposed in November 2006. As for any specific parcels the village may be attempting to acquire, Sturino said he had no comment.
“When there’s an announcement to be made, it will be made,” Sturino said. “I can tell you there’s no interest whatsoever in pursuing eminent domain.”
It was some 14 months ago that the village council first considered buying out six property owners to expand the available surface parking along Madison Street. If necessary, officials said, eminent domain laws would be used to take the parcels, all of which were residential.
That proposal was made in response to a survey conducted earlier that year, which reported a shortage of roughly 160 parking spaces along Madison Street.
The village council is scheduled to meet in the basement of village hall, 517 Desplaines Ave., on Monday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.